Thursday, May 23, 2024

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Elon schedules hearings on fire tax, annexation of town-owned land

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Elon’s town council has agreed to hold two public hearings later this month that may seem, at first blush, to offer little to whet the community’s interest.

These state-mandated hearings, which the council plans to conduct on the evening of April 29, concern two unrelated items that the council has previously addressed to the unanimous shrugs of its constituents.

One of these items regards the proposed annexation of three vacant parcels that were donated to the town in the spring of 2023.

This property, which lies to the north of Elon’s existing limits, include two adjacent lots along NC 87 that cover about 4.2 acres, as well as a third tract off nearby Loop Road that’s roughly 1.1 acres in size.  According to municipal officials, these parcels previously belonged to the scions of a local textile dynasty who had never developed this property due to the presence of wetlands and other inherent challenges.

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Richard Roedner, Elon’s town manager, reminded the council that the former property owners had offered this land to the town with the understanding that it would be used for hiking trails and other recreational purposes.

“We were approached by the heirs of the May family, and they wanted to donate these three parcels to the town,” Roedner went on to recall during a council meeting on Tuesday, “Now, we’re at the point where we’re ready to annex these parcels into the town limits.”

The members of the council went on to vote 5-to-0 to convene a hearing on these annexations at their next regular meeting, which had been pushed back from April 22 to April 29 to avoid a conflict with Passover.

Also on the agenda for this upcoming meeting is a public hearing on the special property tax that the town receives from landowners outside its municipal limits who are served by its municipal fire department.

Last year, the council persuaded the county’s board of commissioners to set this special levy at a level of 8.65 cents for every $100 of property value. Although an ostensible reduction from the previous rate of 12 cents, this figure nevertheless exceeded the “revenue neutral” levy of 8.07 cents that would’ve allowed the town to break even after last year’s countywide property revaluation. The town had proposed this effective tax hike on the fire department’s rural customers in order to plow the proceeds into the cost of a new firefighter.

Last year, a public hearing on this proposed change in the special fire tax garnered a veritable shrug from the rural fire district where this tax is assessed. This year, the town isn’t proposing to make changes at all to the tax – a prospect that the district’s residents will have a chance to weigh in on, if they so choose, on April 29.

Elon’s town council also addressed a third, largely perfunctory item on Tuesday that, this time, required no public hearing as a precursor to the council’s decision.

At issue in this case was a proposed contract with the accounting firm of Ezekiel, Cobb, Loy & Company, which has served as Elon’s independent auditor for the past several years.

The town’s leaders had previously opted to bid out the firm’s contract in light of a proposed increase in the company’s fees. Yet, as fortune would have it, Ezekiel, Cobb, Loy & Company submitted the only response to the town’s solicitation.

The company’s proposal ultimately calls for a three-year commitment from the town, which would be on the hook for $17,820 in the first year if the audit is conducted according to the traditional standards. This fee would rise to $19,820 in the event that circumstances require the auditors follow a more rigorous set of federal guidelines.

The council, for lack of alternatives, voted 5-to-0 in favor of this three-year-deal with the auditing firm.

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