Albemarle’s proposed $80 million budget keeps tax rate at 61 cents

Published 11:21 am Friday, May 13, 2022

Albemarle’s proposed $80 million budget for fiscal year 2022-2023 includes a 6 percent cost of living adjustment for all employees along with the $2.5 million implementation of the city’s new stormwater management program.

“If we’re going to be pushing forward and really changing the narrative of Albemarle and the services we provide, then we’ve got to keep our good employees and we’ve also got to continue to make ourselves attractive to potential employees,” City Manger Michael Ferris said.

The proposed budget recommends the property tax rate remain at 61 cents per $100 valuation for the second year in a row.  

“That’s always a big one,” Ferris said. 

In addition, the budget includes a 7 percent water and sewer rate increase and the average residential electric user will see a 5 percent reduction in their monthly bills.

Ferris presented the proposed budget and explained many of the key highlights during a recent city council meeting.

In his budget letter, Ferris detailed many of the key accomplishments of the past fiscal year, including securing payments from the General Fund for the construction of the Albemarle Business Center, developing the Downtown Catalyst Grant to improve and enhance the downtown area, implementing the first phase of the city’s Wayfinding Plan and soliciting proposals for the former police headquarters on North Second Street.

“We have reshaped the narrative of our downtown,” Ferris wrote. “It is now a place where people want to invest and where they can achieve success.”

The budget requires City Council approval. A public hearing is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. June 6, during which time council may vote on its approval. The 2022-2023 fiscal year starts July 1.

Hiring a new assistant fire chief 

About $19.3 million of the total budget will go to the General Fund, about 18 percent less than the FY 21-22 adjusted budget.  

Operations of the fire and police departments account for 54 percent of the General Fund budget expenditures, followed by public works which accounts for about 16 percent. The total cost of these two departments is $10.9 million, while the proposed property tax rate generates revenues totaling $7.7 million.

A new assistant fire chief will be added for the first time to help address staff capacity issues. Albemarle Fire is the city’s largest department without an assistant director of some sort. 

“We have our fire chief, battalion chiefs, we have captains, but we need somebody else in that administrative position to help manage and oversee the department everyday,” Ferris said. “I think it will be good for the employees, it will be good for operations, I think it will help with succession planning as well, so we can groom somebody that can be considered for the next chief.”

The new position will be advertised, Ferris told council, once the budget is approved.

For police, the budget provides for four new police vehicles, the replacement of mobile data terminals, and the replacement of all body cameras. The new cameras will provide increased functionality and transparency.

The budget also contains a $50,000 increase in the General Fund or street preservation and maintenance. City-wide funding to improve streets will increase from $400,000 in the current fiscal year to $625,000.

New stormwater program 

For the first time in the city’s history, a stormwater fund has been set up and will be allocated $2.5 million, including about $1.3 million for operations and $460,000 for administration. Once implemented the program will address major flooding issues and provide repairs to aging infrastructure.

The budget includes nine employees, including eight new staff members and one transitioning from Public Works. The stormwater fund will provide for supplies and materials and the acquisition of a vehicle, mini-excavator and a trailer.

To support the stormwater management program, residents of the city would pay a stormwater utility fee of $11.50 per month. They would see a slight decrease in their solid waste fee as leaf collection would be included in the stormwater program.

The city has been working with WK Dickson, a Charlotte-based community infrastructure consulting firm, and Raftelis, a Charlotte-based management consulting firm, over the past year on implementing the program. Several community input sessions were held last month to gather feedback from residents. City council is expected to approve the program next month.

What else is in the budget

The Water and Sewer Fund Budget is proposed at $13.1 million.

Some of the projects include moving FY 21-22 funds for the replacement of the Moss Springs Road water booster pump station to a project fund and appropriate additional funds due to increasing costs, conducting a water line replacement project on Moose Street and constructing a new connection between Anderson Heights and Grandview subdivision. 

The Electric Budget is proposed at almost $33.7 million. Funding is allocated for implementation of advanced metering infrastructure or AMI. This offers customers real-time information about energy consumption and is more efficient compared with conventional meters, officials said. The city also plans to replace existing street lighting with LED lights. 

The Solid Waste Disposal Fund is proposed at $4.7 million. The budget provides funding for the acquisition of a supporting generator, a shelter for vehicles and the resurfacing of the landfill road from Stony Gap to the scale house. 

Copies of the budget for public inspection will be available at City Hall, at the Albemarle Branch of the Stanly County Public Library and on the city’s website.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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