Waynesville tax hike is official
Waynesville mayor and governing board reluctantly adopted the $29 million budget which includes a three cents on the $100 property valuation, on a vote of 4-1 Tuesday night. Alderman Gary Caldwell voted against it.
"This has been the hardest year for me in my 18-1/2 years on the board," Caldwell said. "We've spent almost a million dollars on a fleet of police cars, we did all that IT upgrade, and then added a new $90,000 position in public works and that doesn't even count fringe benefits. There's your 3-cent tax increase right there, and more. I told you this would come back to bite us," he said, shaking his head. "None of that was supposed to happen unless Junaluska came in, and they're not in."
Mayor Gavin Brown responded that assigning each officer his or her own patrol car was supposed to save money over the long haul by not running the cars 24/7, "...but that remains to be seen. Ten years from now I may have to say to you that you were right and I was wrong."
At a special planning meeting on June 10, 2013, when the idea was discussed in detail, Brown had called the proposal a "no-brainer" and asked how soon the project could be implemented.
Said Caldwell, "The annual car payment is about a penny and a half on the tax rate, so there's half your increase."
Town Manager Marcy Onieal weighed in, since she and her staff prepared the proposed budget.
"We didn't replace the assistant manager (who recently resigned to accept a town manager's job in another county) so that money was used for the new director of public works."
She went on to talk about the information technology upgrades and getting everything to the "cloud," an off-site computer storage system.
"In my hiring conversations it was stressed that IT changes were to be at the top of my priority list, and no one ever told me differently," she said.
She explained again the loss of several revenue streams from the state and the county.
"And we lost a penny on the tax rate from not receiving ABC revenue because they don't have any revenue to share. They're putting it into their new building, and you agreed to let them do that."
Brown said, "Mr. Caldwell, you and I have had many discussions about this budget, so we'll just have to agree to disagree this year."
Alderman Julia Freeman said she was "...fundamentally opposed to any tax increase" but that she couldn't see cutting back on services. "We're back in a corner."
Freeman pointed out that in the well-advertised public hearings and workshops, no one spoke against the tax hike. That was true Tuesday night, as well.
Alderman Wells Greeley agreed that nobody in public office wants to raise taxes. "But to continue providing the level of services our people expect, it's just something that has to be done. We've got to put on our business hats and do it."
Alderman Leroy Roberson said he had no problem with the proposed budget and would support it.
Water and sewer charges are increasing by 5 percent each, and Waynesville electricity customers will see an increase, perhaps temporary, to be at parity with Duke/Progress Energy's residential customers. A separate line item on everyone's electric bill, whether Waynesville or Duke Energy, will be a 7 percent state sales tax taking the place of a previous 3 percent tax. This is a new state law.
Folkmoot board chairman Rose Johnson presented a lengthy plan of development for the historic Hazelwood School at the beginning of the meeting in reply to the mayor's request.
The school has recently been given to Folkmoot by the county and it is Folkmoot's intention to turn the decades-old facility into a community venue open year round.
Waynesville's budget allocates $5,000 for Folkmoot's program design plan, with $20,000 in the town's special appropriation contributions undesignated line item to be discussed at a later date for possible disbursement to Folkmoot for the historic school. The town budgeted no funding this year for Folkmoot's two-week festival.