Wingagte budget up 22 percent, tax rate stable

Jun. 01, 2013 @ 04:40 PM

Wingate will hold a special meeting with regard to its proposed budget on Tuesday, June 4 at 5:30 p.m. in the Jesse Helms Center. The meeting will discuss the Union County wastewater fees increase and other topics as deemed necessary. Another public hearing will be held later in June.

This year’s proposed budget is $1,595,850, a 22 percent increase from last year’s budget. However, the increase will not impact property tax rates, which will remain at 39 cents for every $100 of valuation.

The increase is due to several capital projects that are scheduled to begin in the coming year, according to the budget statement delivered by Town Manager Patrick Niland. 

This year’s budget appropriates about $11,000 from the fund balance. Niland noted that although the fund balance meets the state statutes, it is lower than is ideal. His goal for 2014-2015 is to start increasing the level of the fund balance. For now, the expenditure is important in that it is an investment in the town’s future, he said. 

Due to some development in the town, staff is anticipating a slight increase in property tax collections. Wingate has the second highest tax rate and the lowest tax base of the full-service municipalities in Union County.

There is a proposed 7 percent rate increase for the water and sewer fund. The increase applies only to residential users with a three-fourth-inch, one-inch or one-and-a-half inch meter. 

Users with larger meter sizes or who use more than 20,000 gallons of water a month will see a 12 percent increase for water and a 10 percent increase for sewer.

The increase is due to a few factors, Niland wrote in his budget presentation. Union County plans to increase the rate at which the town is charged for water and sewer and the increase will help pay for the added debt service for the continued rehabilitation of the lines. 

The town has been rehabilitating and replacing sewer and water lines for the past few years. The budget report said they have invested about $5 million into the project. A significant amount of it has been paid for with grants, but the town has also taken out loans to cover expenses. 

The budget does not include many major changes with regard to staffing. There is a 2.5 percent across-the-board salary increase to adjust for cost-of-living. There is also a proposed 1.5 percent increase to the 401(k) contributions for non-law enforecment officers. 

The police department lost three positions last year, a chief and two patrol officers. The budget proposes that two of those positions, the chief and one patrol officer, be filled. Niland wrote that revenues have not kept up with expenditures and they cannot fill the position. The department is funded by a combination of money from the town general fund and Wingate University allocations.

Niland wrote they are working with the university to come up with a long-term funding solution. They do not anticipate adding positions until an agreement is reached. 

Last year, the town took over the Wingate Recreation Association. The program is not self-sustaining, though that is a goal by the end of 2014. The program should sustain itself through user fees, grants and scholarships. As it grows, they may need to hire personnel, but that is not reflected in this budget and would wait until it is an enterprise fund, Niland wrote. 

Wingate will hold a public hearing about its proposed budget on Tuesday, June 18.