The issue: Board gets first look at 2018-19 finances
The recommended municipal budget for 2018-19 keeps the town’s property tax rate at 30.5 cents per $100 valuation while designating funds for 10 new town staff positions and providing a 4-percent pay increase for all employees. The $66-million budget proposal was presented to commissioners May 7. In a summary of the 105-page budget, Interim Town Manager Jackie Huffman, who prepared the budget with Interim Finance Director Pattie Ellis, said the town’s financial outline for the coming fiscal year includes a $231,000 increase in solid waste service fees but anticipates increases in property tax, sales tax and interest earnings revenue. The budget also includes expenses for the first full year of operation for the Huntersville Recreation Center, Huntersville Fire Department Station 4 and Veterans Park at Main & Maxwell.
What happened: Police force additions a budget highlight
On July 1, the Huntersville Police Department (HPD) assumes responsibility for providing law enforcement services in the town’s extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ). Based on the terms of a new interlocal agreement with Mecklenburg County, the municipal department will add about 23 square miles of the county to its coverage area, and the county will provide annual compensation of $1.4 million to the town in exchange for the service. The added responsibilities will result in staff additions, and Huffman’s proposed budget anticipates adding six police officers to the HPD force by July 1, and two more officers by Jan. 1, 2019. As part of the routine renewal of the police department vehicle fleet and increased demand related to ETJ coverage, the acquisition of 12 police vehicles is also included in the 2018-19 budget.
What it means: Higher pay for all; other staff additions
Along with anticipated increases on the police force, the town is adding a full-time attorney (Angela Beeker is scheduled to begin work with the town June 18) and a project manager position within the public works department. And Huffman’s budget proposal calls for all town employees to receive a 4-percent pay raise starting July 1. In her presentation, Huffman referenced low unemployment statistics, competition with other municipalities for quality personnel, market conditions and basic economic trends as reasons for her recommended pay increase. Police staffing – recruitment and retention – has been a hot-button issue for several months and, through the implementation of Huffman’s proposal, starting base pay for new HPD officers would increase from $38,636 to $40,182. Huffman said funds earmarked for previously unfilled police positions could also be used for officer pay increases.
What’s next: More details, workshops on the horizon
Creation of a new “enterprise fund” related to Commerce Station business park is included in Huffman’s proposal. That $675,000 account – like the town’s electric fund ($21 million) and Huntersville Family Fitness & Aquatics Center fund ($3.86 million) – would operate outside the budget as a self-sustaining entity. The business park is owned by Huntersville, Cornelius and Davidson, and original debt has been paid. Huffman said establishing a separate account would clarify all park-related transactions. The May 7 presentation provided the first look at the budget, and multiple discussions are planned to allow commissioners to hone in on the details. The budget will be discussed at the town board’s 4 p.m. Monday, May 14 work session at town hall. A public hearing on the budget will be held during the board’s May 21 meeting.