The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

May 12, 2014

City budget proposes 3-cent tax hike, marking first in a decade

BY SHANNON BEAMON Staff Writer
CNHI

Sunday, May 11, 2014 — The city of Albemarle is looking at its first property tax increase in 10 years.

The initial draft of the city’s 2014-15 budget proposes a tax rate increase of 3 cents. If approved, the city’s tax rate would increase from 56 cents to 59 cents per $100 valuation.

For a house valued at $100,000 this increase would represent an extra $2.50 on the owner’s monthly property tax bill.

For the city, it represents an extra $270,000 in additional revenue each year.

“I think this is a very appropriate time to consider this,” Councilman Benton Dry said.

According to the Stanly County tax assessor, property valuation grew to $998 million in the past year.

Though this still doesn’t meet the $1 billion mark the city breached prior to the recession, council members said it shows that the city has the financial stability to handle a tax increase.

Due to an excellent public safety record, the city’s house insurance rates for residences also remain about as low as they can be, thus cutting down on property costs, Councilwoman Martha Sue Hall pointed out.

“Just that little bit can help us a lot,” Hall said.

The additional revenue is needed to fund a number of new positions in next year’s budget, including its new economic development director, upper level positions in the Planning/Community Development and Information Technology departments, and three new firefighters.

The city is also looking at a 3 percent pay increase for all city employees in the proposed budget in order to keep up with living expenses, as well as technology updates, new police cars, increased nuisance abatement and other projects.

In order to cover additional expenses in water and sewer, residents could also see an 8 percent increase on their water and sewer rates, about  $3 per month, a slightly higher increase than in years past.

“But when you look at other rates across the state, ours are still well below average,” City Manager Raymond Allen said.

The increase would help cover the debt service payments for several different improvements to the water and sewer system.

Dry said he hopes people understand that these improvement projects, while expensive, are meant as an investment in the city.

“This will make us more competitive within the region … to attract [businesses] with what we have here,” Dry said.

The city’s electric rate is also slated to increase, but at a lower rate than normal, according to the proposed budget.

While the city typically levels an increase of about 5 percent every year, this year it will look to increase the bill by 2.5 percent, about $5.50 per month.

However, when combined with the new sales taxes passed by the N.C. General Assembly, customers should expect an overall 4 percent increase to their electric bills.

“They’ve lowered the income taxes …, but they’ve raised these sales taxes,” Allen said.

Budget discussions will continue and the city’s public hearing on the matter will be June 2.

To submit story ideas, contact Shannon Beamon at (704) 982-2121 ext. 24 or at shannon@stanlynewspress.com.