Maggie Valley board mulls higher feesBudget hearing scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday
Maggie Valley residents may have to pay higher water and sewer fees starting July 1 if the board of aldermen passes the 2014-15 budget as presented.
The board will be holding another budget workshop at 9 a.m. Monday, June 9 to iron out some final budget details and then will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. that night during its regular board meeting at town hall.
Public input is welcome at both of these meetings. Residents can view the proposed budget on the town’s website, www.townofmaggievalley.com, or stop by town hall to review a copy.
The proposed budget for 2014-15 recommends restoring the sewer impact fees back to 2002 levels for residential and commercial development. It also recommends increasing the cost of sewer, tap and planning/zoning fees.
During the 2012-13 budget process, the board of aldermen approved lowering sewer impact fees for residential development and removed the fee all together for commercial development.
“(The) policy decision was made in hopes of spurring additional economic development, which subsequently never occurred,” Town Manager Nathan Clark wrote in the budget presentation.
The 2014-15 budget proposes to restore the sewer impact fees to 2011-12 levels to reflect the true cost of replacement capacity at the wastewater treatment plant. For example, a two-bedroom house in town would pay $1,200 in sewer impact fees under the present schedule. If the proposed increases are approved this year, the same two-bedroom house will pay $1,850 — a difference of $650.
Alderman Janet Banks said the previous board’s decision to do away with impact fees for commercial development didn’t attract new business and also put the town in a position where it had to borrow money from the sewer fund to remain solvent.
“The town cannot give anything away for free anymore and should not be expected to, as a wise steward of taxpayer dollars,” she said.
Alderman Mike Eveland agreed that the increase is reasonable and is needed to put the town in a secure position for upkeep and future maintenance at the wastewater plant.
When comparing sewer impact fees with other towns of similar size in the region, Public Works Director Mike Mehaffey told the board that the town still has some of the lowest sewer rates and impact fees.
To get on par with other towns, the town’s rates will need to be increased over next few years. Eveland said he would rather steadily increase the fees over the next several years instead of burdening taxpayers with a huge increase all at once in a few years.
Gauging from the workshops already held, Clark said the board still hasn’t reached a consensus on how much the increase this year will be.
“But we’ve had some healthy dialogue between aldermen and the staff, and I think we’re on a very positive track,” he said.
The total proposed budget of $3,187,630 is decreased 1 percent overall from last year’s budget and is split into three pots of money — the general fund ($2,287,543), the sewer fund ($770,132) and the festival fund ($129,955).
The festival budget has been decreased about $64,000, or 44 percent, from last year after the board changed its festival grounds fees and did away with the festival grounds director position.
According to a budget presentation, the proposed property tax rate is 39 cents per $100 assessed valuation. The rate was lowered from 42 cents to 39 cents in 2011 and has stayed there.
Property tax is the town’s largest source of revenue. Based on a 95 percent collection rate, property tax is expected to bring in more than $1.4 million.
The second largest source of revenue is sales tax, which is estimated to bring in about $111,827 this year based on the county’s formula for distribution.
Clark also pointed out that the town has a very healthy fund balance of about $1.8 million, which is 83 percent of the total budget. While the League of County Governments requires municipalities to keep at least 8 percent in the fund balance, it recommends much higher levels for small towns like Maggie Valley. In 2003, the town’s fund balance was only 26 percent.
Residents can also expect an increase in sewer fees for the town to expand the treatment plant and to pay for upgrades. As of July 1, 2014, the sewer fee base rate will be $16 minimum for up to 3,000 gallons for residents inside the town and $33 for outside the town.
The tap fees will cost $925 per bedroom for homes inside the town limits, $1,095 per bedroom for homes on Dellwood Road and $1,180 per bedroom for homes outside the town and Dellwood Road.
The new budget also proposes increased fees for planning and zoning, which haven’t been increased since 2006-07. The Zoning Conformance fee could increase from $25 to $50. Another proposed increase is the dwelling unit fee that is currently $200 with a proposed increase to $400.
“These fee increases will be used to improve the quality of life in Maggie Valley from a residential, commercial, and visitor’s perspective,” according to the budget presentation. Based on the projected revenue growth from the past two years, the increase will net about $12,500.
The proposed budget includes a 1.5 percent cost of living raise and a 1.5 percent merit raise for town employees. However, Clark said the board wants to remove the 1.5 percent merit raise from the budget. Employees received a 3 percent COLA last year, but didn’t receive one the year before that. The total cost for the COLA raises would be $18,000.
The town also is faced with a difficult decision when it comes to employee health care. The town has a plan through Blue Cross Blue Shield, but the new Affordable Care Act compliant plan would increase the town’s cost by 26 percent, or about $60,000.
Instead, the board is leaning toward a plan with a plan from Coventry Health Care, which would increase the town’s cost by about 6 percent. But to receive that rate, employees who are tobacco users must enroll in a tobacco secession program or face a 20 percent employee-paid surcharge.
Maggie Valley has had an agreement with Haywood County for five years to treat leachate from the White Oak Landfill and has received about $420,000 in revenue from that service. However, Santek has been seeking other proposals for leachate treatment, so Clark didn’t include that revenue in the proposed budget.
However, Clark said the town was still in negotiations with Santek and may still be in the running to handle the contract.
Breakdown of Maggie Valley proposed budget
Public works $478,650
Board of Aldermen $60,271
Debt service $171,948
Powell bill (road maintenance) $33,475