Budget raises property tax, sanitation fee

May. 22, 2014 @ 09:09 AM

The Sanford City Council pored over the proposed fiscal year 2014-2015 budget Thursday — which suggests a 5 cent increase to the city’s property tax rate, making it 59 cents, and a sanitation fee increase of $75 per year. 

Last year, the city raised the tax rate by 3 cents and increased the sanitation fee by $25. The proposal would bring it to $225.

“It is imperative that we raise enough revenue to put us on solid footing going into next year to stabilize our reserves prior to entering the bond market,” City Manager Hal Hegwer said at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

The draft budget amounts to approximately $46.58 million — $3.11 million more than last year. According to Hegwer, the city has been dipping into its available fund balance for the past five years, and it will most likely do the same again this year.

“What we’re planning to do is put funds back,” he said. “We need to stabilize and stop that trend we’ve seen.”

Hegwer requested a number of expenditures for new vehicles for various departments, including 13 new patrol cars, a new fire pumper and a street sweeper, which combined total about $1 million.

He also suggested that 10 government positions remain unfilled across eight departments, and that one be added to the Information Systems department. According to Hegwer, the two-person department has not grown since its creation in 1999.

“Wireless computing, tablet technology and mobile applications are more recent additions that continue to add to the workload [of the Information Systems department],” Hegwer said. “We have reached a point where it is financially prudent to add another employee.”

The proposed budget also contains suggestions to increase user fees and premiums on health insurance, and to provide a cost-of-living adjustment of 2 percent for employees, which would cost the city $382,897, according to Hegwer.

There will be a public hearing on the budget on June 3. If the council does not adopt it then, June 17 is set as an alternate adoption date. The budget must be finalized by July 1.

After a short recess following the budget proposal, the council unanimously appointed Byron Buckles to fill late Councilman’s Walter McNeil’s unexpired seat to represent Sanford’s Fourth Ward.

They also approved $5,454 to install monitoring wells at the site of a diesel oil spill at Lee County Jail last August.

Councilman Charles Taylor asked that the council set a date to hear presentations in response to requests for information the council had authorized more than a year ago concerning the Sanford Municipal Golf Course. The city had requested proposals from entities interested in operating the course.

“They need to know that we are totally vetting everything that comes before us,” Taylor said of his constituents. “I will fight very vigorously for presentations.”

Councilman Samuel Gaskins said he had read through the presentations and called them unimpressive, saying they “lacked professionalism.” He made a motion to dismiss the proposals, which passed in a vote of 4-2.

The full outline for the proposed budget can be found at http://www.sanfordnc.net/city_government/council/proposed.pdf

For a full video of the meeting, go to http://www.sanfordnc.net/city_government/council/meetings_video.htm