by Josh Lanier
WAXHAW — Waxhaw commissioners said emphatically they would work to stop any potential tax increase during their Tuesday, June 12, board meeting.
In a budget packet sent to commissioners earlier this month, town manager Mike McLaurin said the town’s current tax rate of 34 cents per $100 of assessed value would likely need to be increased to deal with upcoming projects and problems.
“I am recommending that we maintain the 34 cents per $100 tax rate,” he wrote. “However given the challenges ahead I would recommend that the board consider raising the tax rate next fiscal year and for several years thereafter.”
McLaurin applauded commissioners for their aggressive planning and parks and recreation agenda while still building up a fund balance. But he said he wanted to create a strategy to “better weather” any challenges ahead, although he added Waxhaw’s future is “bright.”
McLaurin did not say how much of an increase he is considering.
At the board’s meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Erin Kirkpatrick said she hadn’t heard any discussions of a potential tax hike, but would work to “trim the fat” in upcoming budget talks. The board must pass a budget by June 30. Commissioner Sean Poccia, who works as a business and technology consultant, said he would comb through the proposed budget and have some options for cuts before the board holds its public hearing June 20.
That meeting will be held from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. at town hall, 317 Broome St.
McLaurin was expected to present his budget to the board Tuesday but was unable to attend. But he laid out his plans in a memo.
Some of the highlights in his plan include:
• An income study to verify all employees are at a market minimum and a 3 percent cost of living raise for the mayor, town board and staff.
• Investments in technologies that will reduce labor costs.
• Provide police with $1.7 million in funds to keep levels of service high. This money also will replace some equipment and purchase two new police cruisers. Also start a fund of $150,000 to $170,000 to set aside each year to begin to replace aging police cars.
• Complete the downtown small area plan, rewrite the comprehensive plan, create a pedestrian plan and a Safe Routes to School project. Money set aside for the planning department also will be used to conduct a storm water utility study. This will allow planners to spot aging equipment and substandard structures that will need to be replaced.
• Focus on energy-efficient construction methods within the town. This will allow building inspectors to conduct energy audits and provides tips to residents on how to save on energy costs.
• The Public Services department will replace the retaining wall in the downtown area, repave the cemetery roads and purchase a new wood chipper.
Board members did not comment on the proposal during Tuesday’s meeting.
In other board news:
• The Museum of the Waxhaws has petitioned the town to rezone a portion of their land for potential expansion. The petition would be on parcels of land that abut homes and many homeowners fear that rezoning the land could lead to future problems. A number of homeowners attended the public hearing.
Neighbors Mike and Marty Page of Poplar Grove Circle said they were worried the rezoning, which would allow some commercial development, could kill the tranquility they’ve come to love about the area if the museum sold the land to make some extra cash.
“I’m worried some commercial agents could see this as a tasty place to build,” Marty Price told the board.
Currently, no for-profit business can build on land owned by the museum, a non profit, and the museum has no plans to sell the land, a museum official told the board. They want the rezoning to have the option to potentially expand at a later date.
• Commissioners also held a public hearing discussing ways to make it easier for community gardens and farmers’ markets to be built. The board asked the planning department to come back with text amendment that would address some of their concerns like water usage and competing markets.
Want to know more?
To see the proposed budget, the manager’s memo or find out about upcoming public hearings visit www.waxhaw.com.