One day after Garner representatives returned from Denver and the All-America City finals, town council members quietly and unanimously passed a balanced $25.7 million budget with no new taxes.
Notable items on the final budget include 20 new police cars and a restoration of fully-funded 3 percent merit-based pay increases for town staff. The town had not fully funded the annual raises since the recession started in late 2008.
The report on the original budget proposal said “all departments submitted lean and responsible budget requests.” While not every request was granted, the town staff was able to avoid any drastic changes from last year. At the public hearing regarding the budget June 3, the only speaker thanked the town for funding Garner Baseball.
The town elected to put off a tax increase necessitated by repayments as bond projects get underway and the town begins to borrow money. The town will implement a revenue savings plan that sets aside a percentage of revenue growth to minimize tax increases. An increase to the property tax rate is still expected by at least 2015.
The town expects $25.7 million in revenue. That includes $14.9 million from property taxes on an estimated $3.1 billion worth of property at the current rate of 0.49 cents per $100 of valuation. Over 80 percent of that is real estate.
That means a property owner whose home is valued at $150,000 would pay $735 in property taxes.
Another $7.8 million would from various permits, fees and licenses, along with sales, waste and alcohol taxes. Nearly $4.7 million of that would come from sales taxes.
Where the money goes
On the expenditure side, police account for nearly 28 percent of the budget at more than $7.1 million. The total is up from an amended estimate of $6.9 million in the current budget.
“I think that in terms of operational cost, there’s not really any new programs and services, and all programs and services will stay the same,” finance director Emily Lucas said.
The town was able to move staff merit-based raises to three percent after having cut them to 1.5 percent during the recession. Some towns cut them all together, but many have added them back and Garner wanted to remain competitive as well as reward employees.
The police will replace 20 of its vehicles – 10 early and 10 later in the fiscal year – that range from eight to 20 years old. Ten are at least 13 years old, and a fleet of slightly newer Chevrolet Impalas has proven unreliable and expensive to maintain. The force’s fleet has 60 vehicles total.
The new vehicles will likely be Dodge Darts or Chargers; an initial request for SUVs was denied.
In addition, the town will buy 60 new laptops for patrol and administration, an $84,000 expense.
Public Works represents another big-ticket department, at $5.7 million, or 22 percent of the budget.
The town jointly funds Garner Volunteer Fire and Rescue with Wake County. Garner set aside $2.2 million for its share after combing extensively through that budget for savings in the spring. It is up from $2 million in the previous year. The vast majority of towns in the county dedicate more than 8.6 percent of their budget to fire protection. Matt Poole has said the budget, though strained, can maintain the level of service Garner expects.
Parks and Recreation will see its budget rise in the slightest way, and now rounds up to $1.7 million. Debt Service adds just less than $1.4 million.
The budget does not include capital expenses funded by the bond. The town will borrow that money separately, pay for the projects, and slowly repay those debts in the debt service category over the course of decades.
Garner also set aside $30,000 to help market the All-America City award.