Town manager: Budget allows town to catch up on roads, facilities
DAVIDSON – Davidson Town Manager Leamon Brice is recommending leaving the town’s current tax rate unchanged at 36.5 cents, which will mean a higher tax bill for many property owners who see their assessed value increase in the county’s revaluation of property this year.
Brice’s budget would allocate the same percentage of tourism taxes to Visit Lake Norman – 28 percent of hotel-motel taxes and prepared food taxes. Town Finance Director Eric Hardy said that will amount to $63,530, an increase of $10,050 from last year, which mirrors the town’s increasing tax revenues.
By maintaining the current property tax rate, the town could expect to get almost $875,000 in additional revenue, which could make up for two years of cuts in personnel and services and also address some the town board’s priorities. Brice and Hardy said the proposed budget would:
• Provide raises for town employees for the first time in three years. The $88,901 budgeted would cover 3 percent raises for all town employees.
• Catch up on delayed street maintenance and enable the town to maintain its current paving grade of 79 percent. The proposed budget combines $200,000 from the general fund with $157,000 in state funds that are designated for road work. The budget also includes $50,000 for sidewalk construction.
• Perform $50,000 in park maintenance, replace the leaking roof on Town Hall ($20,000) and spend $86,360 to replace five aging police cruisers and $35,000 on new firefighter turnout gear and breathing apparatuses.
• Implement $80,000 in recommendations from a downtown parking study, including adding wayfinding signs to assist visitors and improve downtown parking lots; use $10,000 for an economic development plan review; and $25,000 on landscaping.
• Resume funding for public art ($12,190) and increase support for local nonprofits to $50,000.
• Allocate $15,000 for Davidson’s share of a victim’s advocate and $5,000 in matching funds for a community “health assessment.” United Family Services and Mecklenburg court officials have asked the three towns to fund the victim’s advocate as the first step in getting a magistrate assigned to the north Mecklenburg area, a long-time goal of the towns and other community groups.
• Provide $1.9 million to enable MI-Connection, the broadband company Davidson owns with Mooresville, to cover its debt payments. The town would end up taking $407,454 for its fund balance, much better than the $700,000 Hardy and Brice had projected during last year’s budget discussions.
Town officials had expected to take $804,000 from the town’s fund balance this year, largely to cover $2 million Davidson had to provide MI-Connection. But by controlling expenses and getting more sales and utility franchise tax revenues than expected, the town will likely only take $265,438 from the fund balance this year, Hardy said.
The town board will hold a public hearing on Brice’s proposed budget at the board’s May 10 hearing, and Brice’s recommendation to maintain the tax rate is likely to draw comments.
The county has not revalued property for eight years, and Mecklenburg County tax officials are estimating an 18.4 percent increase overall in Davidson property values, Hardy told commissioners. A small percentage of Davidson that sits in Iredell County, but Iredell officials estimate those property values will only increase 0.4 percent.
To produce the same amount of revenue, taking into account the higher assessed values, the town board would have to lower its tax rate to 31.1 cents per $100 of assessed value, Hardy said. Even accounting for “normal growth” and expansion through annexation, the town would have to lower its tax rate to 32.7 cents per $100 of assessed value.
As an example, a home currently assessed at $250,000 could see its assessed value increase 18.4 percent, to $296,000. By maintaining the current 36.5-cent tax rate, the town tax bill on that house will increase from $912.50 to $1,080.40 – or $167.90.
Brice’s proposed budget also includes:
• $20,000 to assess the condition and possible uses of the Davidson IB property. In May, the town will bid to lease the property, which belongs to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Brice told board members that “others have made inquiries” about leasing the property. School district officials should make a decision in June.
• $13,000 to upgrade the traffic light at Beaty and Griffith streets, adding a left turn signal onto Beaty.
• $10,000 for incentive pay to attract more volunteer firefighters.
• $25,000 to replace the fire department’s broken “jaws of life” hydraulic, extraction tool.