GARLAND — With a budget due soon, town leaders are concerned about economic growth, but stressed the burden should not be placed on people who call Garland home.
Town Clerk and Finance Officer Pam Cashwell presented an estimated outlook for planning purposes for the 2019-2020 fiscal year, which starts July 1.
The budget for the 2018-2019 period was more than $888,000 for revenues and expenditures. Garland’s tax rate was set at 72 cents per $100 for assessed valuation of property. During a Tuesday meeting there was a consensus from Mayor Winifred Murphy and town commissioners to keep that tax rate the same.
With concerns for residents, the commissioners were in agreement about not raising fees and rates, although a study by Mike Hill of the N.C. Rural Water Association suggested more increases based on payments and expenditures should happen. As of now, there are no official plans to increase water and sewer rates or for other services such as curbside garbage/recycling pickup.
Cashwell reminded the board about a situation in 2012 where the board had to approve a massive increase.
“His recommended increases were based on what we’re spending,” Cashwell said. “So if you keep spending and you don’t bring anything in you’re going to find yourself (in an unwanted situation).
With the fiscal year starting July 1, the board will make a final decision following a public hearing, at which residents can express their concerns about the budget.
“I would be the first to say that our rates are already high,” Cashwell said. “But everybody said it’s not easy to pull it out of the ground and treat it.”
Commissioner S.J. Smith said he wanted to hold off on fee increases after the presentation and explanation by Cashwell.
“At some point, we will have to bite the bullet, but I’m kind of agreeing with Commissioner S.J. that we need to just wait for next year to see, when we have a full board present,” Murphy said.
The town is also uncertain whether Waste Industries is going to increase fees for recycling services.
Cashwell also presented neutral property tax rate information regarding revaluation with assistance from David Clack, finance director for Sampson County and the Local Government Commission website. For 2018-2019, the tax rate was 72 cents per $100 based on assessed valuation of property.
Garland’s tax base stood at $28.15 million prior to revaluation. Following the reassessment, it increased by less than $3,000. Cashwell said it shows that even with properties that had increased valuations, there were just as many properties that went down in valuations because of conditions.
“We have no businesses coming in, we have no one coming in and building new homes,” Cashwell said. “We don’t have anything to increase our tax rate.”
According to figures, the neutral tax rate for Garland should be set at 74 cents per $100. Cashwell added that numbers from Sampson County were almost identical. It’s required for the board to review and to be listed on the proposed budget ordinance.
“That’s just information that I’m giving you,” she said to Garland commissioners. “The tax rate will be based on what you say it is.”
Cashwell said the totals show that Garland is stagnant in growth. It also presents challenges when a large portion of spending comes from tax revenue. After mentioning vacant buildings that need to be fixed, she also brought up that the last home built in Garland was constructed about three years ago.
“Compared to Sampson County, Garland is stagnant and Garland is not growing,” Murphy said.
She also mentioned other issues such as abandoned vehicles and unpaved streets, as well as Garland residents paying more taxes than other towns in Sampson County, but receiving less than other municipalities.
“We have to do more for our citizens,” Murphy said. “That’s why I’m concerned about raising taxes and raising water and sewer bills, unless we absolutely have to.”
Murphy also implored the importance for the town to make good decisions on spending for improvements such as sidewalks, paved streets and usable buildings to attract people to the community. Cashwell also chimed in to that point about being good stewards of the taxpayer money.
“Every department is going to have to look at things and do more with less,” Cashwell said.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-592-8137. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.