Sunday, May 19, 2024

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Graham, NC 27253
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Graham mgr. keeps same tax rate, proposes 9.5% water & sewer increases

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Graham’s city manager unveiled a new municipal spending plan on Tuesday that proposes to increase expenditures for many of the city’s programs and services – but without any change in its property tax rate.

The budget that Megan Garner has proposed for the new fiscal year calls for a total of $20,648,350 in outlays from the city’s general fund – a repository for various taxes and fees that bankrolls most of the municipality’s operations.

Graham city manager Megan Garner, during an earlier city council meeting.

Garner’s recommendation for the general fund is roughly $1.1 million higher than the figure that Graham’s city council adopted in the spring of 2023. Garner nevertheless proposes to sustain this increase without any change in the city’s property tax rate of 28.99 cents for every $100 of value. When it enacted this rate a year ago, the city council had committed itself to a “revenue neutral,” or break even, levy following the latest countywide tax revaluation. In going revenue neutral, the council earned Graham a distinction that neither the county nor any of its other large municipalities matched in 2023.

Even with this hold-the-line tax rate, Garner still expects the city’s property tax proceeds to reap $642,340 more in the new fiscal year – with each penny on the tax rate predicted to bring in $233,512. Garner also anticipates a two fold surge in the city’s investment earnings, $79,000 from a newly-introduced “occupancy tax” on hotel and motel accommodations, and modest growth in various other sources of revenue.

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Of particular interest to most residents are a number of proposed fee increases, including a $2 bump in the monthly charge for garbage and recycling collection and a jump from $2.00 to $3.50 a month in the so-called “stormwater fee” that the city assesses to manage rainwater runoff.

Also included in the manager’s budget is a 9.5 percent spike in the city’s water and sewer fees, which sustain a separate fund that pays for Graham’s public utilities. All told, this independent account is projected to spend $12,249,900 in the new fiscal year.

Thanks to her anticipated increases in revenues, Garner has been able to squeeze some additional outlays into her proposed budget for the city’s general fund. Among other things, she is proposing a 3.8-percent “cost of living adjustment” for the city’s full-time staff members as well as an additional staff-level post for a heavy fleet technician. Yet, the single largest beneficiary of Garner’s budget is the city’s police department, whose projected expenditures of $6,596,342 dwarf any other city department – and are more than three times the proposed outlays for the fire department, which is a distant second in the financial rankings.

Graham’s city council will have an opportunity to pore over Garner’s specific suggestions during a budgetary workshop that’s scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, May 21. The general public will also have a chance to weigh in on the plan when it comes up for a public hearing on Tuesday, June 11.

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