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Originally published: 2014-06-10 20:13:26
Last modified: 2014-06-12 12:34:28

Proposed Boone tax hike up to 6 cents

by Anna Oakes

Requests for additional fire and police personnel persuaded Boone Town Council members to increase a proposed property tax increase from five cents to six cents.

The council held an all-day workshop Monday to review Town Manager Greg Young's recommended budget for fiscal year 2014-15, which he submitted to council members on May 30.

A public hearing on the 2014-15 town budget will be held at the Monday, June 16, meeting of the council, which begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Council Chambers at 1500 Blowing Rock Road. The council would then consider adoption of the budget ordinance at the Thursday, June 19, meeting.

Young's budget included a proposed five-cent property tax increase, which he said is needed to offset the impacts of losses in local sales tax revenue, continued economic effects and high fuel costs. But his recommendation did not include funding for the fire department's requests for four additional positions, and the police department's request for one and a half telecommunication positions.

Boone Fire Chief said that rural fire tax revenues could provide for two of the needed firefighter positions, and the council agreed to consider the increased tax hike for the other two fire staffers and the telecommunications staff.

If the six-cent increase is approved, Boone's ad valorem tax rate would increase to 43 cents per $100 valuation.

Also recommended is a 50-cent increase in water rates as part of several years of incremental increases in anticipation of debt service payments on the town's water intake project.

Young recommended a 3 percent cost-of-living pay increase and a 2 percent merit increase for town employees, but council members agreed to scale back the cost-of-living increase to 2 percent to accommodate the additional staff positions in the budget.

If feasible, Boone Mayor Andy Ball is hoping that the budget will also allow for the addition of a half-time position for a public information officer.

Ball said the council could discuss the possibility of the Boone Tourism Development Authority providing funding for the other half of the position if the employee also provided visitor information services in downtown Boone.

The council is scheduled to meet with the Boone TDA board on Wednesday.

Young advised council members that the town had $3,371,680 in undesignated General Fund monies remaining from this year's budget to appropriate to projects at their discretion. That figure is in addition to approximately $5.6 million in cash reserves the town retains for emergencies.

Council members tentatively agreed to allocate the one-time funds to projects including, but not limited to:

- $115,000 to the Howard Street project, which would add to $150,000 already reserved;
- $1.3 million to a reserve fund for a new government center;
- $15,000 to restore the town calendar;
- $100,000 for grants and subsidies to outside agencies;
- $285,000 for renovations to the Boone Police Department building;
- $100,000 for sidewalk expansion;
- $100,000 for paving and resurfacing town streets;
- $53,600 for two police vehicles;
- $50,000 for downtown streetscape improvements; and
- $100,000 for IT improvements, including improvements needed for the new town website.

The revised budget proposal document is available online at http://www.townofboone.net/departments/finance/finance.php under "Recommended Budget 2014/2015."