Gibsonville’s town manager included no property tax hike, but an increase in sanitation and stormwater fees, when he presented the town’s board of aldermen with his proposed budget this week.
The extra dollar on the monthly sanitation fee will add $39,000 in revenue, while 75 cents to the stormwater fee will result in $33,000 more annually, manager Ben Baxley explained. The added revenue would be set aside for the public works department and stormwater projects, he said.
While the manager’s proposed $11.7 million budget included several infrastructure-related projects and capital purchases, it also set aside $135,000 for three new full-time positions, two for police officers. One of the officers would start on July 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year, while the second would join the department on January 1. The third employee is a maintenance technician for the public works department.
The town also plans to purchase several vehicles in the coming year, with most going to the public works department; those include replacing a garbage truck and a dump truck for $380,000 total and purchasing and outfitting an asphalt roller for $19,500 to patch potholes. The police department will be receiving four new vehicles, two of which are replacements, for $228,000 total.
Mayor tells manager to put more funds toward repaving streets
Mayor Lenny Williams directed Baxley to add at least $100,000 more to the $350,000 that was earmarked for repaving projects. While the town has traditionally used only state-provided Powell Bill funds, the manager suggested pulling the additional cash from the town’s $1.4 million in savings.
The mayor was especially adamant about putting more funding toward the project after having received a number of complaints in passing from residents. Public works director Rob Elliott said that repaving on many of the town’s streets has fallen behind, leaving some untouched for about 60 years, a far cry from the 25-year goal that his department has.
Two aldermen suggest adjustments to pay raise model
Following Baxley’s presentation, aldermen Ken Pleasants and Shannon O’Toole gave their pitch for getting the town’s employees to mid-point pay within six years or less of their hiring; mid-point pay represents the median between minimum and maximum pay for a position. The initial focus was given to the fire and police departments, which the two board members suggested get to mid-point pay after five years.
The slight emphasis on the public safety departments was determined by extra safety risk that the first responders face day-to-day, Pleasants explained.
“You’ve got to put a little more emphasis on police and fire,” Pleasants said. “I mean, the police wear bullet-proof vests to work every day. The firefighters could lose their lives at any time.”
For his part, O’Toole said that all of the departments’ abilities to attract and maintain staff would be critical as the town increases in size.
“We’re talking about projects and growth and things like that,” O’Toole said. “Our employees are what is going to make those efforts successful.”
The pay raises would also reduce turnover and save the town the expense of having to hire and train new employees, Elliott and police chief Ron Parrish explained after being brought before the dais this week. With the police department, Parrish said, the town spends between 100 and 150 percent of an officer’s annual salary to hire and train a replacement.
To cover the cost of bringing the town’s employees to their mid-points, Pleasants suggested that property taxes could be raised temporarily. In time, he mused, residential and commercial growth, which he has said would eventually necessitate well-staffed departments, would cover the expense and allow the town to decrease its tax rate.
The mention of raising property taxes didn’t sit well with the mayor, who, though he said all employees should be at their mid-points, noted a tax increase as not being an option.
During the board’s closing comments, alderman Yvonne Maizland suggested using some of the town’s incoming $2,150,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to give the police officers and firefighters a bonus.
Ultimately, the manager’s proposed budget includes an annual cost-of-living and merit pay increase for the town’s employees, at 1 percent and up to 3 percent respectively.
A public hearing for the proposed budget will be held on June 7, with the board voting then or at its next meeting, on June 21, to finalize a budget ahead of the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.