Graham’s city council members were presented with a going away gift at 11:30 Tuesday night as they finally wrapped up their monthly meeting.
Interim city manager Aaron Holland presented the council with his proposed budget for the next fiscal year that begins July 1.
It is largely status quo, with no increase in the city’s property tax rate of 45.5 cents per $100 valuation.
The main impact residents may feel is a hefty percentage increase in monthly trash fees, which are proposed to go up from $6.25 to $8.00 per month, a $21 annual increase per household.
Water rates are recommended to stay the same, but sewer rates would increase from $7.75 per thousand gallons to $8.45.
Holland proposed an increase in funding for the police department, the city’s largest department, adding two new patrol officers, although he softened the budget impact by delaying their start dates until January 1, 2022.
The budget also includes money for replacing heating and air conditioning within the police department, as well as money for replacing four police vehicles.
The overall budget actually shrinks by 12 percent, about $1.4 million, because an almost $4 million expenditure for improving the Boyd Creek pump station was financed during 2020-2021. The general fund budget (which finances most city operations other than for the water and sewer operations, which are financed separately) was set at $31,485,800, down from $34,805,640 for the current year.
Salaries take up a sizeable portion, $8.1 million for 163 positions. In addition to the proposed two new policemen, two new part-time positions are proposed to be created that equal about 1.22 full-time equivalent positions (FTE’s), according to the budget outlined by Holland.
The city’s health insurance premiums are budgeted to increase about 10 percent, or $133,000; additional contributions to the state retirement system will add another $105,000.
One penny on the tax rate is estimated to generate $115,612 in the upcoming fiscal year, which Holland based on a 97 percent collection rate.
Mayor Jerry Peterman said he would meet with council members one at a time with Holland to go over the budget between now and the council’s next meeting on June 8. A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held at that meeting; the budget must be adopted prior to July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.
Alamance News publisher Tom Boney, Jr. questioned whether the series of two-member meetings with the interim city manager, which he termed “sequential meetings,” were legal under the state’s Open Meetings Law, particularly in view of statewide court cases which he said have restricted the concept.
Peterman said the council has traditionally adopted that approach but said he would discuss it with the city’s attorneys to ensure that the council complied with the law.