At Tuesday’s regular meeting, the Marion City Council was given a recommended $10.4 million budget for fiscal year 2017-2018, which does not call for an increase in the city’s property tax rate.

In his presentation, City Manager Bob Boyette said the proposed 2017-2018 budget of $10,473,155 is an increase of $484,724, or 4.85 percent, over the original 2016-2017 budget. The proposed 2017-2018 plan is a decrease of $58,188, or .56 percent, from the amended 2016-2017 fiscal year budget.

Marion’s property tax rate will stay at 51 cents per $100 valuation. This will be the 50th straight year that the city of Marion has not raised the property tax rate. The $.51 tax rate is projected to generate approximately $2,135,664 in revenues for real, personal and utility property, and $190,000 for motor vehicles, based on a tax collection percentage of 97 percent, which is one percent less than the projected city tax collection percentage for 2016-2017, according to Boyette’s message to council.

“Retail sales in the city and county have been good in recent years, exceeding the growth in statewide retail sales for seven of the past ten years, and continued growth in local retail sales is expected to continue in 2017-18,” reads Boyette’s budget message to council. “Forecasts call for sales tax revenues across North Carolina to be 4.25 percent higher in 2017-18 than in 2016-17, so there is hope that the sales tax revenue estimates projected for 2017-18 are conservative and that actual sales tax collections may exceed the estimate.”

Even though the property tax rate still remains the same, city customers will pay more for their water and sewer service.

The proposed budget calls for an increase of just over 3 percent in water and sewer rates. “The rate increase will produce an estimated $93,000 in revenue in 2017-18. Due to water and sewer sales being more than forecasted in 2016-17, the budget projects that water and sewer sales will be $132,000, or 4.31 percent, higher than what was budgeted in 2016-17.”

Under this increase, the average inside water and sewer customer, using 5,000 gallons a month, will see their monthly water and sewer bill go up by $1.60 per month.

In the proposed budget, there is no recommended transfer from the city’s General Fund to the Water and Sewer Fund for the ninth year in a row. This means that the Water and Sewer Fund will continue to be self-sustaining, maintaining the goal City Council has had for many years, according to the budget message.

ABC revenues are expected to be $112,500, which represents a $2,500 increase from the 2016-2017 budgeted amount. This additional money is due to increased sales and improvements made to the two ABC stores in Marion. This money is designated for beautification, parks and recreation, downtown/economic development and donations to outside agencies.

The budget recommends only modest increases in permit fees and a small increase in commercial garbage fees, along with the hikes in water and sewer rates.

The proposed budget for Marion includes a 2 percent cost-of-living pay increase for city employees. The plan has increases in health insurance, worker’s compensation and property and liability insurance premiums.

The 2017-2018 budget does not call for any new positions to be created and but no one will be let go either.

“The recommended budget includes converting a part time IT Analyst position to a full time position February 1, 2018,” reads Boyette’s budget message. “It is worth noting that the recommended number of full-time City positions for the 2017-18 Fiscal Year, 96.0, is almost exactly equal to the number of full-time positions the City had during the 2002-03 Fiscal Year (95.5 budgeted positions), despite the City growing by more than 60 percent in population between 2001 and 2016.”

The proposed plan contains funding for street and sidewalk projects, a new backhoe for the Street Department, two fully equipped police SUVs and one fully equipped police car, money for the Drexel Heritage cleanup project, an SUV for the Fire Department, the start of a police K-9 program, 10 new Dumpsters for the Sanitation Division, a new fence and gate at Marion Elementary, a new time clock for the Police Department, automatic timers for the downtown Christmas lights, two tablets for the Fire Department, two new iPads for Planning and Inspection and other equipment needs.

The proposed budget has an $86,650 contribution from the city for the Interstate 40/N.C. 226 South sewer line extension project, which will be for the new Holiday Inn Express. The plan has money for the Mountain Glory festival, the Fourth of July fireworks, downtown events and promotions, the Tailgate Market, the façade grant program and the third phase of the Catawba River greenway.

City officials will continue to talk about the proposed budget, which has to be adopted by June 30. The City Council will meet on Tuesday, May 23 at the City Hall to review the budget and to discuss current and future projects and priorities.

“The budget is in your hands to review,” said Boyette to council.

In other business, the City Council approved the list of 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 Powell Bill spending priorities. The Powell Bill refers to state money that is designated for the building and maintenance of city streets.

The 2017-2018 list of priorities, as approved by council, includes:

• School Street drainage project – estimated expense $21,000

• East Fort Street repairs – estimated expense $10,000

• Holly Hill Drive 60-foot culvert replacement and associated street repairs – estimate expense $45,500

• Foxfire curbs – estimated expense $12,000

• Resurfacing on Valley, Granby, Webb and Oliver streets – estimated expense $68,500

• Patching and general work – estimated expense $35,000

• Striping and marking – estimated expense $9,000

There are also estimates for resurfacing on Turner, South Madison and Pine Grove streets.

The 2018-2019 list of priorities, as approved by council, includes:

• Crawford Street embankment – estimated expense $40,000

• Resurfacing for Woodlawn, Mitchell, Pineview, Greenlee, Martin and Gilkey streets and Ridgecrest Drive – estimated expense $120,000

• Patching and general work – estimated expense $35,000

• Striping and marking – estimated expense $6,000.

Boyette and Public Works Director Brant Sikes said all of these estimates are rough and based on preliminary assessments.

“A lot of need and not a lot of resources,” said the city manager.

In other business, the Marion City Council:

• Did not hear a poetry presentation from a class at Pleasant Gardens Elementary School. The teacher asked for this presentation to be rescheduled for another date.

• Appointed Jason Snyder and Gary Walker as alternate members of the city’s Planning Board.

• Recognized Lt. Rusty Jenkins and Cpl. Daniel Hoskins of the Police Department for their achievements in training certification.