City leaders set to mull upcoming fiscal year

By Brie Handgraaf

Staff Writer

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The Tuesday Committee of the Whole meeting has been set aside for Rocky Mount staff to discuss the $210,445,840 proposed budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year. It will be the first of several budget meetings.

City Manager Charles Penny stated the proposed budget represents a 1.3 percent increase from last fiscal year’s adopted budget but a 4.8 percent decrease from the revised budget.

“Overall, city departments prepared budget proposals with limited growth in operating expenditures and debt service payments,” Penny wrote in a letter about the budget to the City Council. “Senior staff worked on identifying an additional $1 million in budget reductions during the internal deliberation process in order to balance with respect to current revenues and a $1.2 million appropriation of fund balance.”

The letter states that in addition to efforts to reduce expenditures, forecasts indicate the current fiscal year will end with slight improvements to the ad valorem and sales tax revenues. He said a noticeable increase in new car sales also will lead to continued growth in the coming year.

While the budget does not call for an increase in property tax rates, there are several proposed rate increases to services provided by the city. Staff recommends a $1 per ton increase in rates charged for use of the city’s solid waste transfer station to offset increased costs for contracted disposal services.

When it comes to utilities, staff recommends an adjustment to the base customer charge for water consumed, but a reduction in the first tier rate for use, meaning the average customer will not see an increase in their bill, the letter states. A 5 percent increase in per unit sewer consumption rates, along with a $1.50 increase to the base sewer customer charge also is recommended.

For stormwater customers, a $0.75 increase in the monthly per unit stormwater fee is recommended and would be about $9 per year more for the average residential customer. No changes are recommended for electric and natural gas services.

“Proposed changes to taxation of these services will require customers to pay a 7 percent sales tax on electric and natural gas portions of their utility bills, beginning July 1,” the letter states. “This is part of a broader tax reform passed into law last summer by the General Assembly and Governor, shifting state revenue from individual and corporate income tax rates over to sales tax in order to improve economic competitiveness with regard to the tax structures of neighboring states.”

Penny said staff will monitor recommendations from the N.C. Department of Revenue and Local Government Commission and consider adjustments as they are advised.

Other specifics of the budget will be discussed during the 2 p.m. meeting and other meetings planned throughout the week.

At the regular meeting at 4 p.m., council members will consider several financial issues as well, including closeouts associated with several grant projects such as the Planters Oil Mills site and costs associated with Hurricane Irene cleanup.

Other items on the agenda include a budget appropriation from the Maria V. Howard Bequest for $84,000 to cover the purchase of a digital sign and special blinds for the Imperial Centre for Arts & Sciences.

Also on the agenda is a proposal from the Rocky Mount Police Department to spend U.S. Department of Justice grant funds to purchase LED flashlights and in-car digital video systems, and a lease agreement with Caring Hands Companion & Transport Service for office space in the train station.