Thursday, July 18, 2024

114 West Elm Street
Graham, NC 27253
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Graham passes budget

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Graham’s city council has voted unanimously to adopt a $32.9 million budget – excluding more than $121 million in new revenue for special projects – for the upcoming fiscal year that maintains the city’s existing property tax rate of 28.99 per $100 of valuation.

There were no speakers during a public hearing on the proposed budget at the outset of the city council’s latest meeting last Tuesday night.

The city’s budget includes $20.7 million in spending within the general fund; $12.2 million in spending for the water/sewer fund; and $121 million in spending within a special projects fund.

City manager Megan Garner persuaded the council earlier this spring to leave the city’s property tax rate of 28.99 cents at every $100 of value, which reflects the “revenue neutral” rate that the council established following the latest countywide tax revaluation in 2023. In going revenue neutral, the council earned Graham a distinction that neither the county nor any of its other large municipalities matched in 2023.

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Garner has projected that revenue from the city’s municipal tax collections will generate $642,340 in additional revenue during the 2024-25 fiscal year, with each penny on the tax rate predicted to bring in $233,512.

Garner also anticipates a twofold surge in the city’s investment earnings and $79,000 from a newly-introduced “occupancy tax” on hotel and motel accommodations.

Garner’s recommended budget, which the council adopted last week, included several fee increases: 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 “stormwater fee” that the city assesses.

The adopted budget also includes a 9.5 percent increase in water/sewer fees to support that fund, which is projected to spend $12,249,900 in the new fiscal year.

Graham’s full-time city employees will receive a 3.8-percent cost of living adjustment; and one new position, a heavy fleet technician, will be added.

The single-largest beneficiary of the city’s budget is the Graham police department whose $6.6 million allocation for 2024-25 dwarfs any other city department – and is more than three times the proposed outlays for the fire department, which is a distant second in the financial rankings.

The city’s special fund includes: $84.6 million for the Waste Water Treatment Plant upgrade; $17.2 million for a water main replacement; $5 million in “revenue replacement” from the American Rescue Plan Act (i.e., federal stimulus funding for Covid-19) and $4.9 million for other projects funded by ARPA; and funds for other major capital repairs and upgrades planned during the 2024-25 fiscal year that begins July 1.

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