Tuesday, June 22, 2021

114 West Elm Street
Graham, NC 27253
Ph: 336.228.7851

Mebane budget holds line on property taxes; water & sewer rates to rise 10 percent

Mebane city manager Chris Rollins outlined to city council members Monday night his proposed budget for the next fiscal year that begins July 1.

Rollins is proposing to hold the line on the city’s property tax rate of 47 cents per $100 valuation while increasing spending by $3.8 million, a net of about 1.7 percent compared to the current fiscal year, the same percentage projection for increased revenues.

Mebane’s property tax base is over $2.6 billion, and property tax revenues represent 78 percent of the financing for the city’s general fund where most expenditures, other than water and sewer-related, are handled.

The primary financial impact resident may feel is a 10 percent increase in both water and sewer rate charges, which Rollins said are needed to finance future improvements at the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

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In an interview with The Alamance News, Rollins explained that city staff had recommended a more incremental 5 percent increase in rates several years ago, which had not been adopted by the council, leaving a greater need for increased revenue.

Because of the city’s explosive growth, however, Mebane can afford most of the expansions Rollins has included without triggering a tax increase, he said. He termed much of the budget as reflecting “the stress of growth.”

Among new expenditures in the 2021-2022 budget are ten new employees (including five for the police department), eight new police cars ($461,756), a new fire truck ($582,288), and new garbage truck ($320,000), plus lighting for Walker Field, improvements at the city’s Lake Michael Park, and improved video in the city council chambers. (There are also three reclassifications of positions with increased salaries for each.)

To reduce the cost to the budget, the four patrol officers would not be hired until January 1, 2022.

Among the other new personnel is a public information officer for the city ($101,457); a new accountant position ($88,151), a police investigator ($81,911 plus $$45,200 for a car, total of $127,111); a fire inspector ($77,311); a human resources consultant ($69,807).

The increases represented about half the personnel requests and roughly 20 percent of the capital expenses, although several of the biggest ones of those were deferred until later in the budget process.

Population growth for the city had been projected at 4.8 percent, Rollins summarized, but added that actual growth has been “more like 5.2 percent.”

The past year has been the busiest for housing starts, Rollins noted, with permits for 325 new homes obtained; yet his estimate for 2021 is for even more, 550 homes.

Among big-ticket items on the horizon, Rollins is including:

· A new police station, with a total projected price tag of $16.5 million (which includes $1.75 million for land and possible design).

· A fourth fire station, with total project price tag of $4.5 million (of which $500,000 is estimated for the price of land).

· The Holt Street greenway (projected cost of $900,000).

The city council will take a final look at the budget and is expected to vote at its June 7 meeting. The budget must be adopted by the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.

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