The issue: Long-term budget review ending
April and May have been filled with multiple presentations and public input sessions focused on the municipal budget plan proposal for the next fiscal year prepared and presented by Finance Director Piet Swart and Town Manager Jamie Justice. Swart introduced the proposed $11.795 million Fiscal Year 2019 budget in April, and the town board has held several workshops asking questions and dissecting particular sections of the package. The board held a budget public hearing on May 8, and a public comment session was also added at the board’s most recent session on May 22. At that meeting, commissioners addressed a few more items in the financial package, which features a revenue and expenditure total 7.15 percent higher than the current budget but maintains the town’s property tax rate at 35 cents per $100 valuation.
What happened: Same tax, adjustments in spending
The unchanged tax rate means a property valued at $300,000 in Davidson will generate $1,050 in municipal taxes. A $500,000 property will generate a tax bill of $1,750. County taxes will be added to those bills. The current Mecklenburg County tax rate of 81.5 cents per $100 valuation (County Manager Dena Diorio has asked for a three-quarter penny increase) would add $2,445 to the bill for a $300,000 property and $4,075 for the $500,000 property. Owners of similarly valued Davidson property in Iredell County (tax rate 48.5 cents) would face bills $1,455 and $2,425 higher. In the proposed budget, 21.4 percent of FY ‘19 expenditures would be for police operations (up from 20 percent last year); 16.9 percent would go to public works (17 percent in FY ‘18); and 14.9 percent would fund fire operations (13.1 percent in FY ‘18).
What it means? Shifting dollars to higher demands
From the start of budget conversations, commissioners suggested tweaks and minor adjustments and asked Swart for more detailed explanations of parts of the financial plan. One of the highlighted issues – corresponding with the focus on personnel retention that has dominated budget discussions in all three north Mecklenburg towns – was Swart’s plan to provide merit pay increases for qualified employees. In his proposal, Swart designated $79,751 to finance a 3-percent merit pay pool. He also set aside $44,432 to finance potential increases in pay suggested by a planned town-wide compensation study. In their budget workshops, several commissioners – especially Matthew Fort – asked about finding more pay for town employees. At the May 22 meeting, Swart said by delaying plans for some public works facility improvements, the merit pay pool was increased to 4 percent.
What’s next: Decision on new budget set for June 12
One late budget fix involved solid waste management. On May 22, the board authorized Justice to finalize and execute a contract with Waste Pro for residential household trash, yard waste and recyclable collection services. Waste Pro’s bid was substantially lower than the bid submitted by the town’s current provider, Republic Services. The town’s annual solid waste fee of $201 for a single-family household and $60 for a multi-family dwelling will not change. The solid waste issue and merit pay adjustments were the final discussion items, and when Justice asked commissioners if they required another workshop before the budget vote on June 12, they said no. Fort, who works in finance and regularly questioned Swart about the proposal, said he was satisfied. “I’m comfortable with the budget, where we are and where we’re going,” he said.