GARLAND — Commissioners are ready to approve an $808,000 budget for town operations.
A meeting to approve the 2016-2017 budget ordinance is scheduled for 6 p.m.Thursday, June 23 at town hall, 190 South Church Ave. The budget’s change is less than 1 percent form the current fiscal year. The amount is an decrease from the 2015-16 budget of $892,000. The tax rate is proposed to remain at 72 cents per $100 valuation of taxable property. It’s based on an estimated valuation of close to $28 million and a 95 percent rate of collection.
During a public hearing on June 14, Town Clerk Pam Cashwell, presented some of the highlights. Several residents in attendance voiced their concern about safety and possible fee increases. Dianne Gibbs brought up the town’s 40 percent poverty rate.
“That tells me that a lot of people are already struggling,” Gibbs said. “A tax increase is just going to increase that burden.”
Mayor Winifred Murphy said a lot of time was spent on the budget which came with challenges which included an increase in demands from the Sampson County Sheriff’s Department and Garland Fire departments. The local law enforcement agency was seeking close to $113,000 for services — an increase of $25,000 from the previous budget. This resulted in commissioners turning down the request.
Fire Chief Thomas Norris requested $83,000 for services, but only $11,000 was granted for volunteer services. Norris requested a 10 cents tax per $100 valuation on property, but that request was shot down too.
Gibbs was also concerned about street maintenance issues throughout town.
“It’s like throwing dirt in the hole, you leave and you forget about it for six months,” Gibbs said.
During the street process, Murphy stressed that needs are addressed when complaints are made at town hall. She also said it can be a very expensive process to pave.
Along with Gibbs, other residents were concern about ties with the Sampson County Sheriff’s Department coming to an end on July 1. Some of the complaints included safety and costs associated with bringing back a police force.
Businessman Franklin Brown told commissioner that safety should be the first priority for any town while showing concerns about the fire department’s request. He said it was a matter, which should be taken up with county commissioners. Increasing the tax base was another request of his.
“Anytime there’s an issue, it’s always put on the taxpayers,” Brown said.
He also referred to the town’s poverty level and alluded to how landlords already have tenants who can’t afford their rent.
“I don’t know of any new structure that has come to Garland within the last few years,” Brown said. “That’s because citizens can’t afford to do it. And nobody is going to come to Garland if the tax base is the highest in the county.”
One of the highlights from the general fund ($493,000) includes increasing the vehicle sticker fee from $5 to $10; business registration fees generating $700 to implement a business registration program; and increasing the fund balance from $18,494 to $21,000.
Under the water/sewer fund ($279,000), rates are expected to increase of $1 for each residential customer and $2 for each commercial user. It also includes an $1 sewer increase for residential customers and $2 for commercial customers. Based on a previous calculation, the increase would generate more than $10,000 per year. Town officials believe an increase is necessary to avoid having a large hike in the future.
The Powell Bill Fund is $36,000. Funds from this pot my be used for street maintenance throughout Garland.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.