MOORESVILLE – Following a regional trend – in what Town Manager Randy Hemann described as “an unusual year” combining inflation, revaluation, prioritized investments, new departments and serious competition for high-quality employees – the proposed municipal budget for the next fiscal year features a 9.2 percent increase in general fund dollars fueled prominently by higher individual property tax bills.
In his brief budget presentation at the town board’s May 15 season, after two evenings of budget workshops the previous week, Hemann provided an outline of his plan – and the factors that shaped it – for a $86.9 million general fund budget (the current year’s is $79.6 million) and a 48.36 cent municipal property tax rate.
The proposed tax rate is nearly 10 cents lower than the 58-cent tax rate the town has maintained for 15 years – a clear indication of the substantial municipal tax-base boost affiliated with higher property values assigned through a countywide revolution. But it’s also six cents higher than the 42.34-cent “revenue neutral” tax rate calculated using the adjusted tax base to generate the same property tax revenue as this budget year.
In presentations Monday and at the May 10 and 11 workshops, Hemann emphasized a “maintenance” goal referencing the assortment of services provided to residents, the expanded square footage of municipal facilities that require upkeep and the momentum the town has established on completing a list of prioritized capital improvement projects.
In addition, he cited plans to add up to 40 new town staff positions in Fiscal Year 24, in-progress work to have a municipal permitting and inspections department operational by the day after Labor Day and ongoing efforts to establish a Mooresville Traffic Management Center to begin the multi-phase, multi-year process of overseeing local traffic flow and intersection signal operations.
In department-by–department presentations during the workshops, higher budgets were requested in almost each request, with Randy Lowman, director of Building Permitting & Inspections, lightheartedly referenced as having the biggest jump from the previous year since, in FY23, his department didn’t exist.
Of the new town staff positions requested in the budget package, 10 are in the new department, which is scheduled to take over permitting and inspection duties in Mooresville from Iredell County. In his comments, Hemann also said, once the permitting and inspections department is operational, it is designed to fund itself through fees associated with its services.
Reval, tax impact
– In Mooresville, factoring in every property type, revaluation resulted in value increases ranging from 39 to 64 percent – on average, about 44 percent. With the proposed 48.36-tax rate, property tax increases in FY24 will range from 16 to 37 percent.
– A Mooresville property valued at $215,000 in 2023 generated a local tax bill of $1,247 with the 58-cent tax rate. If revaluation resulted in a 44-percent increase in value to $309,600, the local property tax owed with the new proposed Mooresville rate of 48.36 cents rate would be $1,497.22. With the revenue neutral rate of 42.34 cents, 2024 taxes would still be higher than the previous year, $1,310.85, on the revalued property.
Other budget items
Merit pay increases to qualifying employees (averaging 3.5 percent) and a 2-percent cost of living raise in a competitive staffing market are part of the municipal plan for FY24 along with a transition, with more than 500 town employees, to self-insured status that promises future savings.
A substantial list of Capital Improvement Projects – some finished, some in progress and others set to begin – was also highlighted to demonstrate investments and commitments authorized by commissioners for new facilities.
The second phase of Liberty Park improvements, scheduled for completion next month, and renovations to transform the former police station on Iredell Avenue into One Mooresville Center – the future headquarters for several town departments – were highlighted current projects.
Those on the horizon, in addition to a Traffic Management Center, include Cornelius Road Park upgrades, the redesign and repurposing of Moor Park, a reimagined Mooresville Museum and town investments in the partnership development that includes a multi-story parking deck along Church Street.
In addition to property taxes, increased utility rates are also looming. In her presentation to commissioners, Utility Director Alison Kraft said pending necessary updates and upgrades to aging parts of the municipal water and sewer system create the “need to adjust revenue to meet future needs.”
She outlined a proposal calling for phased-in percentage increases in utility bills during the next five budget years to offset anticipated expenditures for new equipment.
Mooresville’s complete budget package is accessible for review at mooresvillenc.gov. A public hearing is scheduled at the town board’s June 5 meeting, when commissioners will also have the option to adopt the FY24 financial package.
No bond package, yet
An item that, quietly and unceremoniously, vanished from municipal financial discussions was the possibility of a General Obligation Bond referendum this November.
Following up from planning retreat conversations earlier this year, Hemann and Chief Financial Officer Chris Quinn outlined the steps required if commissioners wanted to pursue a 2023 bond package. During previous discussions, a bond package of up to $30 million was referenced, with the money targeted for use on local transportation network improvements and, potentially, the parking deck project.
At Monday’s meeting, Quinn said the required first step would involve the board giving him the authority to initiate the required preliminary notification and documentation process declaring the town’s intent to place a referendum on the November ballot – with a “deadline” for a final decision in early July.
However, when Mayor Miles Atkins asked for a motion, there was nothing but silence.
As the matter died, commissioners asked for confirmation about scheduling a future bond referendum, with Quinn listing a potential March 2024 primary election date and the following November as options.
Also at Monday’s meeting, the board approved a $496,341 contract to replace an outdated sewer force main line along Brawley School Road between Rolling Hills Road and Williamson Road. Kraft said the project will begin after the school year ends, and added the bulk of the work will be done at night to lessen traffic impacts.
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