Council approves 5-cent tax increase, 5-percent water rate hike

By Tanya Chilton tchilton@civitasmedia.com

June 12, 2014

JONESVILLE — The Jonesville Town Council approved a fiscal 2014-15 budget including a five-cent tax increase and a 5-percent increase in water rates during Monday’s town council meeting.

Jonesville Town Manager Scott Buffkin said the town council held three public workshop meetings during the process to discuss the budget and the budget is presented as an estimate of the town’s operating revenues and expenditures for the fiscal year of 2014-15.

“As the budget was developed over a period of time, it wasn’t formally submitted to the council until the June regular meeting. The town manager’s recommended budget was on file by June 1 in the town clerk’s office,” said Buffkin.

General Fund

The tax rate will increase from 40 cents in the 2013-14 fiscal year, to 45 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for the fiscal year 2014-15.

Buffkin said, “It is something we tried to avoid. We felt we could no longer avoid purchasing equipment for public works. We are approving a small excavator and we funded merit raises for employees.” Buffkin said it is the town’s goal to try to keep taxes as low as possible.

He said four years ago the town was at 51 cents rate, then went 48 cents, and two years ago, it was lowered to 40 cents. “However, at 40 cents, the town has had to dig into savings to the point, and we could not just do that any longer,” said Buffkin.

As a result, the town council chose to raise it to 45 cents. Buffkin said, “I think that is a sustainable tax level going forward.”

Buffkin said the budget proposals represent the culmination of many hours of analysis and deliberation by the department heads and administrative staff.

Buffkin said, “The North Carolina General Assembly appears to be poised to make significant changes to the state’s tax code which may have considerable impacts on the town’s share of the various state collected local revenues. The privilege license tax has been slated for elimination following this budget year and will represent a loss of approximately $30,000 in revenues and will require a property tax increase of two cents to offset.”

At the time of preparation, the budget impact of that happening could not be accurately accessed beyond fiscal year 2015-16, said Buffkin.

Water Fund

Buffkin said the ever-increasing costs of operating a water utility will require 5-percent increase in the town’s water rates in order to maintain the system in an operational manner and to make the first full payment on the debt associated with the water plant project.

Buffkin pointed out that Jonesville has been successful in securing grant funds of about $2.1 million toward the total cost of $4.4 million, making up about 47 percent of the cost for the water plant project.

In the meantime, Buffkin said Jonesville will continue to pursue agreements with neighboring towns to “secure a reliable water supply and a market for the water capacity that our new plant can now provide.”

Summary And Conclusion

Buffkin said, “Despite all the rhetoric to the contrary, federal, state and county governments continue to pass along unfunded or underfunded mandates that hinder our ability to respond to local issues. The proposed 2014-15 budget provides sufficient funds to provide a 2.5-percent merit increase to superior performing employees. However, as salary increases will be based upon merit, not all employees will receive equal increases.”

Buffkin said the town continues to provide health and dental insurance, access to the Local Government Employees’ Retirement System (or Law Enforcement Officers’ Retirement System) and a 5-percent contribution to the 401K supplemental retirement system for all employees. “These are significant benefits to our employees,” said Buffkin.

“We believe that the revenue and expenditure statements contained within this budget are fair and reasonable. The proposed budget, as presented, is financially sound and demonstrates a genuine effort to be as efficient and cost-conscience as is both prudent and possible..

“On behalf of the employees of the town, we would like to thank you for the opportunity to serve the citizens of Jonesville, ” said Buffkin.

No one spoke in opposition to the proposed budget during Monday’s public hearing.

Tanya Chilton may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @TanyaTDC.