Waxhaw Museum and Woman’s Club receive large donations
Waxhaw approved its 2011-2012 budget without increasing taxes or fees charged for services, but some town residents were expecting a tax cut.
“I don’t know if you all have read that budget. There are a lot of wants on there, but not very many needs” resident Shelby Holston said during public comments, “I think with the way the economy is today, we need to do some cutting, we have the highest tax rate in western North Carolina and this particular town is absolutely ridiculous, we need to do some cutting, major cutting.”
Bonnie Rusinko objected to the sanitation fees. “I don’t understand with the economy as it is, that you want to charge us a $40 fee per year” Rusinko said. “It seems we should be cutting expenses, people are out of work and this is just another thing they have to be burdened with”.
Town Manager Mike McLaurin responded to Ms. Rusinko, explaining that the town spends approximately $600,000 for solid waste and sanitation expenses per year. “The town started the sanitation fee in 2007 to help subsidize the costs.” McLaurin said. “The fees are charged to developed residential properties only.”
The Commissioners approved a $6,259,000 budget, a nine percent increase over the previous year. Even with the increase spending, the ad valorem property tax rate remains at 34 cents per $100 valuation; zoning and permit fees are unchanged and the aforementioned $40 solid waste collection fee remains the same as well.
Capital project funding went down 21 percent to $454,700; administration expenses grew slightly to $1.2 million, the police department went up five percent to $1.6 million, building inspections were up by 11 percent, planning department went up by 38 percent and public services grew by 14 percent to $1.8 million. The budget forecasts revenue increases in sales tax, franchise tax and building inspection fees, in addition a slight increase in motor vehicle and property tax is anticipated.
Outside Agency donations provoked the most discussion among commissioners, as it almost doubled from the previous year. Commissioners decided to donate $25,000 to the Waxhaw Woman’s Club, whose facility, the 117 year old Belk store on East Main, suffered damage by suspected vandals June 22. Other agencies receiving support include the Waxhaw Volunteer Fire Department at $15,000; the Museum of the Waxhaws will get $12,000; and Turning Point a $2500 grant. Monies paid the Museum include $9,000 in facilities rent, leaving the actual donation at $3000.
In addition to approving the budget, commissioners approved a capital projects ordinance which identifies specific projects. Leading the list is the Water Tank refurbishment, earmarked for $35,000; downtown business lighting gets $25,700 and new computer hardware, $31,000.
The town is also buying a $45,000 mini-excavator or backhoe, spending $100,000 on Nesbit Park and $55,000 at David G. Barnes Park; all told $245,000 for five projects and $454,700 in total capital projects.
The budget was approved by a unanimous vote.
Problem with perceptions
“In meeting with folks the past month or so, there are a lot of questions about why we wanted to keep the tax rate where it was and what we anticipated we would do with the money we held in reserve.” Commissioner Phillip Gregory said referencing the $5.3 million that Waxhaw has accumulated in fund reserves.
“I think it would behoove us in the future, so the public can better understand what we’re doing with the money that we have in reserve,” Gregory said, “to give them a rough idea what we’re doing with the money, I think it will clarify the public perceptions.”
“People say your sitting on all that money and keeping our tax rates at 34 cents” Gregory said, “they have no idea we want to build a new town hall.”
Mayor Pro Tem Martin Lane offered a thermometer metaphor as an example of what the Commissioners could use to illustrate what future projects commissioners have in mind. “It would be very simple to show where we are and where we need to be” Lane said gesturing to different points along an imaginary line.
“The board had decided some time ago to save for major projects like a town hall,” Town Manager McLaurin, “Its cheaper to spend cash than to borrow money for big projects.” McLaurin also advocated saving money for emergency circumstance, which is “always a possibility as recent events have shown” he said, referring to the recent train derailment.