By Jesse Wood
June 20, 2014. The Boone Town Council unanimously adopted the 2014-15 fiscal year budget on Thursday evening. The $26.3 million budget includes a property tax hike to 41 cents per $100 valuation.
This is a four-cent increase above the current rate. It is also one cent less than the five cents recommended by Town Manager Greg Young and two cents less than council proposed at budget workshops earlier in the year.
Councilwoman Lynne Mason was the first to suggest that six cents would too much of a hike to put on the backs of businesses and residents in the town. She initially suggested a three-cent hike but the council settled upon four cents after hearing again from Young.
Just as Young wrote in his budget message released in late May that highlighted aspects of the budget, the council members noted the difficulty of balancing the budget without the nearly $1.7 million in revenues that were lost because the Watauga County Board of Commissioners changed the sales tax distribution method to ad valorem. To cover that shortfall, Young said the council would have to raise taxes by 15 cents.
For each penny the sales tax is raised, Young said that roughly $138,000 in revenue is raised. To balance the budget last year in light of the redistribution of the sales tax, Young said that town used $400,000 out of its fund balance and took out a $200,000 loan for water and sewer fund.
So Young said that is where he came up with the five-cent proposal. When the council agreed to spend some more money to add telecommunications and fire department positions, the council tacked on another cent to bring the tax-hike proposal to six cents.
During a public hearing for the budget on Monday, nobody spoke before the council about the proposed tax increase, and on Thursday evening, only one person spoke about the budget – and that person – Tom Jamison, a resident of Boone for 44 years – said he had no problem with the increase as long as the monies were being used appropriately. Jamison even suggested taking out a bond to improve sidewalks, parks and street widening.
In all, the council seemed pleased with the budget.
“I think it’s a good budget,” Councilman Rennie Brantz said. “It addresses public safety, maintains services for the community and commits to values [the town and members of the community] hold very important like outside agencies and reflects the caring and concern for the people in our community.”
In addition to the telecommunications and fire department positions, the budget includes merit raises and cost-of-living adjustments for town staff and funds for capital projects.
Before voting on the budget, Councilman Quint David noted some concerns he had with the budget that he wanted to discuss:
- He was worried that the Planning & Inspections Department may need more staff to deal with new software
- The Tourism Development Authority requested to have bathrooms open at the Jones House on weekends, which would require staff
- He was interested in an internal review of departments to figure out if departments could “share” resources
Council immediately went to a vote after David raised his concerns.
View the entire recommended budget here and line-item rundown of the budget below.