The city’s $14 million budget for 2016-17 was adopted Tuesday, including nominal utility fee hikes, an adjustment to employee salaries and funding for a number of capital projects — recreation renovations, a water plant expansion and a police station addition among them.
“We have prepared, worked on and talked and talked and talked about this budget,” Mayor Lew Starling said, lauding city staff and opening the floor for any discussion. There was none.
“I do believe it’s a responsible budget,” City manager Shawn Purvis remarked. “We’re looking forward to starting a new fiscal year.”
The proposed city budget totals $14,006,800, a 3.3 percent decrease from the current 2015-16 budget. The General Fund totals $9,102,000, a decrease of 4.5 percent from the current amended budget, while the Water and Sewer Fund is $4,786,400, a 1.3 percent increase.
The ad valorem tax base is an estimated $729.7 million, which will generate $2.86 million in property taxes with a 40 cent tax rate per $100 valuation at a 97.8 percent collection rate.
Purvis said the budget is decreasing while maintaining all current services and implementing fire inspection, sidewalk and storm draining programs. He said sales tax projections are driving revenue growth.
Sales tax revenues, the city second largest revenue source at $2.1 million (23 percent), have increased the past several years as the economy continues to recover, Purvis noted. They should increase further in 2016-17 with the state exposing more services to sales tax and restructuring the revenue distribution, expected to generate an additional $200,000 (a 15 percent increase over 2015-16).
Municipal vehicle tax will also rise from $5 to $10 per vehicle under the adopted budget.
Since the early 1980s, the city has levied a tax of $5, typically allocated toward streets maintenance. The N.C. General Assembly recently revised the law to allow a tax up to $30, but with restrictions. The initial $5 remains general purpose, but the law assigns another $5 to public transit and the remaining $20 to street resurfacing, repairs and maintenance. Without a public transit system, the city can only increase the tax to $25.
The $5 hike will generate an additional $30,000 for a total of $62,000.
Water base rates are rising from $12.56 to $12.62 and sewer base rates from $13.08 to $13.15. Water and sewer consumption rates will be a penny more, from the current $1.88 to $1.89 for water usage per 100 cubic feet and $1.83 to $1.84 for sewer. Residential garbage collection will cost the same. In all, the average bill will be about 26 cents more a month, city officials said.
Included in the 2016-17 budget are recreation projects that will improve Royal Lane Park as a whole, as well as Bellamy Center and the remote Sampson Center specifically. A water plant expansion, N.C. 24 utilities project and police station addition will also lay the groundwork for decades to come.
The city received a Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant for $250,000 toward the initial phase of renovations at Royal Lane Park, which will include consolidation and upgrades for a central playground, a quarter-mile trail, expansion of the multi-purpose field and refurbishment of the track. The city will pay for the other half of the $500,000 endeavor. Work will begin in November 2016.
A roof replacement for the 25-year-old Bellamy Center will cost around $80,000 and air conditioning for the Sampson Center gym, which has never had it, are also in the budget. Increased use of Sampson Center during the summer, notably children’s activities and open-play for the neighborhood, has generated interest in the gym expense, whose initial estimates for AC are between $60,000 to $75,000. The expenditure was not anticipated until 2017-18, but city officials hope to squeeze it in for 2016-17 should the budget allow.
The city developed a plan for an addition and renovation project at the Clinton Police Department several years ago but has been unable to support the entire plan financially. Currently, the Police Department stores evidence in two locations, including one off site. A $300,000 project by which 1,000 square feet will be added to the station for storage of all police evidence is anticipated to begin in November 2016 and be completed by the end of the fiscal year.
Expansion of the water system, through which the city’s water supply will increase by 1.5 million gallons and provide the capacity to serve existing and prospective industries, experienced some delays over the past two years due to setbacks in well location and construction. With well construction nearly complete, construction of transmission lines and expansion of the Parsons-Anders Water Treatment Facility to double its current size is also anticipated to begin in 2016-17.
The bulk of the work will occur in the coming year, with completion set for 2017-18. The upcoming budget includes $125,000 in interest payments for interim financing for the $4.84 million project, which will be funded by a USDA loan.
N.C. 24 Industrial Park utilities are budgeted at a cost of $3.5 million, to support a biofuels industry and other potential industries coming to the area. The city has already secured $650,000 in grant funding from the N.C. Department of Commerce Rural Division and close to $1.8 million from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to help fund the project.
The initial phase of the infrastructure will begin with line upgrades and valve insertions in 2016-17 at an estimated cost of $400,000, with half the cost covered by grant sources. A utility lines replacement and rehabilitation program, a new endeavor by the city, will be funded at a separate annual cost of $200,000.
There will be $225,000 allocated for street resurfacing, $25,000 less than the current year.
The city will use a cost of living market adjustment of 0.7 percent and an established performance pay schedule to dictate employee pay. That cost for 2016-17 is anticipated to be $53,000.
The full approved budget can be viewed online at www.cityofclintonnc.com.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.