Thursday, May 30, 2024

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Graham, NC 27253
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Graham city manager’s budget includes tax rate almost 21 percent above ‘revenue neutral’


Graham city manager Megan Garner has joined other local municipal managers in recommending a new 2023-2024 budget for her city with a significant property tax increase – almost 21 percent above the “revenue neutral” level that state law requires to be provided for comparison in a year of property revaluation.

Graham’s current tax rate is 45.5 cents per $100 valuation. Garner proposes to establish a new rate of 35 cents per $100 valuation, 6.01 cents above the revenue neutral rate that she acknowledges to be 28.99 cents. The resulting percentage increase in the property tax rate above a revenue neutral level is thus 20.73 percent.

Graham city manager Megan Garner

Garner’s 20.73 percent increase is the second highest locally, just behind Burlington’s proposed increase of 21.29 percent. [Elon this week came in third highest at 14 percent (see separate story this edition), and Mebane’s was over 11 percent (see story in May 4 edition).]

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Each penny on the tax rate under the new revaluation raises $228,084, according to her presentation.

Garner’s spending plans increases expenditures by almost 16 percent above the adopted 2022-2023 budget ($20.2 million versus $17.4 million for the current fiscal year), although she told council members that budget amendments adopted during the year, and likely to be presented in June, will boost the baseline for current year spending.

The largest increases are for the police department, historically the largest department in the city (up $969,415 to $6.63 million) and Streets and Highways (up $438,945 to almost $2.1 million); Garner highlighted that street resurfacing would increase for the tenth consecutive year, this time by $200,000.

Other, $200,000 increases are included for Information Technology, Inspections, and the city’s garage, which had heretofore been a separate fund.

Staff will be increased by two full-time employees, one in planning and another as a human resources assistant.

All employees will get a 5 percent cost-of-living raise.

In the separate water and sewer fund, Garner is proposing an $11.87 million budget. With it are included a 7 percent hike in both water and sewer rates, the highest increases proposed in municipal budgets released thus far.

Burlington and Mebane city managers have also included higher monthly water and sewer rates for their respective residents – 6 percent in Mebane, 5 percent in Burlington. Meanwhile, Elon, which relies on Burlington for some of those water and sewer services, has included a 5 percent rate hike for all residents.

Graham residents will also have a $1.00 per month increase in their garbage and recycling fees, to be set at $11.50 per month, up from the current level of $10.50.

The city council will hold a budget workshop on Tuesday, May 23 at 10:00 a.m. A public hearing on the budget will be held at the next monthly meeting, on Tuesday, June 6, at 6:00 p.m.

In other action at Tuesday night’s monthly city council meeting, after a two-hour closed session, the council came back into open session and voted unanimously for an 8 percent raise to city manager Garner and, also unanimously, for a 12 percent raise to the law firm that represents the city, staffed by Bob Ward and Bryan Coleman.

Graham mayor Jennifer Talley summarized that the council was “very happy with her [Garner’s] performance”; the attorneys’ contract, which Talley said had not been raised in the four years it has been in effect, was increased from $78,000 to $87,360 per year.

Read the newspaper’s editorial views on latest municipal budget proposals with tax rates that far exceed “revenue neutral”:

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