GARLAND — After several meetings and a public hearing on Tuesday, commissioners are ready to move forward with a budget of more than $888,000.
The tax rate for Garland residents will remain the same from last year at 72 cents per $100 dollars for assessed valuation of property. According to officials, tax revenues are based on a 94.5 percent collection rate and a valuation estimated at $26.92 million. Based on the valuation of 72 cents, this will bring in more than $164,000 in 2018 tax receivables and $18,723 in motor vehicle tax.
For the 2018-2019 fiscal year starting July 1, the budget is $30,000 less than the previous one because of having less money in the fund balance. The town’s budget consist of the general fund ($522,000), water/sewer ($290,000), the Powell Bill portion ($76,000) for street maintenance.
One of the highlights of the general fund includes a $5,000 increase in legal expenses, bringing the total to $10,000 for a new lawyer, following the resignation of Attorney Micheal Porter.
For building maintenance and repairs, about $65,000 will be used by officials. It was increased by $17,400. Commissioners are planning to replace a roof at town hall.
Garland’s Police Department will use more than $83,000 — a total less than the previous approval of $120,000 from the previous year. Funds were used for start-up costs. After ending a contract with the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement protection, commissioners made a decision to start their own unit. During the public hearing, Paula Bradford, stressed her support to have body cams and recording devices for the safety of Chief Ron Matthews and for liability matters.
“Is there anything he needs, he should have it since we’ve gone that far in the budget,” she said.
Several changes were also made to the 2018-2019 fee schedule. Some of them include a re-connection fee increase of $35 to $50 and an after-hours re-connection increase from $50 to $100.
The town’s curbside garbage and recycling fee are set to increase by $1 for in-town residential, in-town commercial and out-of-town residential customers. Officials said the increase is necessary because of their contract provider upping their charges.
During the public hearing, a few comments were made regarding fees and taxes from residents.
“Garland pays the highest tax in Sampson County and a lot of people can’t afford this,” said Charles Powell, a resident. “I don’t know where you come up with this tax thing and you raise the water too high. Every since I’ve been here, the water been going up and up.”
Wayne Bradford also expressed concerns regarding taxes, financial matters and making Garland better by revitalizing buildings. He also made a suggestion to take a closer look at spending for town operations such as town road repairs and the police department.
“Let’s put our heads together and think of something,” Bradford said. “Let’s help our commissioners and mayor out instead of spending time on Facebook or covering our heads hoping this all blow by and that it’s a bad dream. It’s not and it’s our reality. Unless we do something to change it, our future looks really bleak as a town.”
Several town leaders said that Sampson County officials play a part in the amount of taxes residents pay as well. Before the final approval of the budget, Mayor Winifred Murphy wanted commissioners to put more money towards codification and building upgrades in Garland.
“We have over a million dollars in our bank account and we got fund balance that could be used to restore the community building that has been closed down,” Murphy said. “We have an ABC store with floors that are rotting and roofs needs to be repaired on several buildings. This is an opportunity for you to do that, this fiscal year.”
But the request was turned down.
“I think we reviewed it enough and I’m ready to move on with it,” Mayor Pro Tem Ralph Smith said.