Boone budget numbers similar despite sales tax hit
by Anna Oakes
Although the town of Boone faces a loss of $1.8 million in sales tax revenue next year -- about 14 percent of this year's approved General Fund expenditures -- General Fund spending in town manager Greg Young's 2013-14 budget proposal would change less than 1 percent.
The Boone Town Council last year approved $12,445,205 in General Fund expenditures, and Young's recommended General Fund budget next fiscal year is $12,350,493, a 0.76 percent decrease.
To balance the budget, Young proposed a five-cent property tax increase to 42 cents per $100 valuation, a change estimated to raise ad valorem revenue from $5.1 million in 2012-13 to $5.9 million in 2013-14, according to the budget document.
Young also reduced General Fund expenditures by $1.3 million, in part by asking all town departments to cut expenses by 5 percent.
Despite the $1.3 million cut, however, town leaders anticipate increases in some line items. One example is the addition of three town employees to staff the new Boone Fire Station No. 3, which is funded using revenues from the rural fire service district.
Council members expressed mixed opinions on a tax increase at the May 31 town council retreat meeting. Council members Jamie Leigh and Allan Scherlen said they believed a tax increase was necessary, but Councilwoman Lynne Mason suggested the town dip further into undesignated reserve funds to avoid a tax hike.
Also at the meeting, Young highlighted recommended budget reductions, including a proposal to eliminate or scale back the number of parking validation stamps allotted to downtown merchants.
Validation stamps void expired time parking citations for customers who can prove they were doing business downtown. Downtown leaders have discussed the elimination of the parking validation system for years; some say that people abuse the system and that downtown employees don't have time to explain how it works. The 2010 Boone Parking Task Force recommended the installation of parking meters for public spaces.
In 2012, parking validations represented $59,000 in voided citation revenue for the town, Young said.
Young also said he wants to see more revenue from cultural resources programs -- including those at the Jones House -- and from uses of other town properties, including special events such as 5K runs.
A $124,181 payment to Watauga County for tax collection also caught the eyes of council members, who said they want to study the feasibility of the town collecting its own taxes in the future. Boone Finance Director Amy Davis said tax collection duties could not be assumed without an increase in staffing.
Water and sewer fees have been gradually increasing over several years to raise revenue to meet the anticipated annual debt service payments for the town's planned water intake on the South Fork New River. However, no water and sewer fee increases are proposed in Young's 2013-14 budget.
Planned Water and Sewer Fund capital expenses include sewer improvements from Councill to Locust streets and along the N.C. 105 extension.
council will further discuss the 2013-14 budget at a workshop scheduled Monday, June 10, beginning
at 8:30 a.m. at the Council Chambers, located at 1500 Blowing Rock Road. For more information, call
Town Hall at (828) 268-6200.