Taxes go up 4 cents, or 27.5 percent, depending on how you look at it
by Mike Parks
INDIAN TRAIL – Town leaders will soon have something they’re not used to in Indian Trail: cash to spend. But despite the nearly unanimous decision to pass this year’s budget, not everyone is happy with the plan to hike taxes in exchange for investment into the town.
Indian Trail council members voted 4-1 Tuesday night, June 12, to approve the town’s budget and 4-cent property tax increase to fund capital improvement projects and a debt-reduction service. It’s a 27.5 percent increase to town property taxes, hiking the rate from 14.5 to 18.5 cents per $100 of assessed property value. That still leaves the rate much lower than any town in North Carolina with a similar population, according to Indian Trail staff.
The decision came to a mix of cheers and boos from local residents packed into the town’s chamber, many of whom used time before the vote to bemoan or support the proposed increase.
But when it came time to vote, the majority of council said now is the time to invest in Indian Trail’s future.
“The status quo doesn’t cost anything; to do nothing doesn’t cost anything,” said Councilman Robert Allen, saying it’s time to move past the status quo. Referring to people who said in the public comments period that they want Indian Trail to stay the way it’s always been in terms of a rural community. Allen added, “I don’t want (it to be) 1974 again.”
Allen was joined in his vote by council members Christopher King, who proposed the tax increase two weeks ago, Darlene Luther and David Cohn. Cohn had been on the fence about the increase, but said he decided just recently to throw his support behind the plan.
“The more I sit here (and study the plan) … we could have not raised taxes tonight,” Cohn said. “But it was going to happen down the road.”
He added 4 cents might not have been enough by the time a tax increase was reconsidered.
King, who stuck his neck out in proposing a tax hike for the first time since a 5-cent increase was approved in 2007-08, said one of the best parts about this plan is the money won’t sit around for long.
“We are talking about some immediate impacts,” he said.
But David Waddell, the one dissenting vote on the tax increase, says this is a dangerous step his colleagues are taking in growing the size of government at a time when many residents want to see government get smaller.
“I see a lot of things being put in place for future growth of the government,” Waddell said about the budget. “It’s pretty plain to see.”
Waddell also is upset the tax increase was proposed right after the public hearing on the budget, saying residents haven’t been given ample time or opportunity to study the plan and get their feelings known. Mayor Michael Alvarez echoed that concern, saying he’d likely be more comfortable with the increase if it was pushed off to next year.
Waddell continued to say he felt the tax increase may just be a means for council members to ensure they can still have the money to build parks in Indian Trail even if voters decide in November not to approve the park bond. It’s a claim Cohn adamantly refuted.
“I support the bond for the park … but if it doesn’t pass, it doesn’t pass,” Cohn said. “I want to see a nice park, I want to see bike paths … but if the people vote against (the bond), that’s it.”
Paying off an $8 million bond for a new park is one of the things the tax increase could be used for, Town Manager Joe Fivas said Tuesday night. His department has put together a list of projects the town could fund with the tax increase, only a few weeks after Fivas presented a budget with no tax increase and very few increases in town services.
Investment would be broken into three groups: projects for 2012 to 2015, 2015 to 2018 and 2018 to 2021. Those projects include:
• Chestnut Lane sidewalk, which would connect three neighborhoods with the Austin Village commercial center
• Poplin Road sidewalk, which would connect three neighborhoods with Poplin Elementary School
• Unionville-Indian Trail Road sidewalk, which would connect multiple neighborhoods and businesses to the Wal-Mart shopping district, Sardis Elementary School and the proposed park
• Rogers Road sidewalk, which would connect neighborhoods to four Indian Trail schools and the Sun Valley commercial district
• Rogers Road intersection improvements
• Unionville-Indian Trail Road at Sardis Road intersection improvements
• Phase I of Chestnut Parkway, connecting U.S. 74 to Old Monroe Road and relieving congestion on Indian Trail Road
• Municipal Complex, which could include a community center, town hall, farmers market and senior center
• Baseball complex, softball complex, and soccer, lacrosse and football fields
• 6 miles of wooded walking paths and bike trails
• Two large playgrounds
• Two large multi-use pavilions
• Dog park
• Open recreational space
• Phase II of Chestnut Parkway
• Phase I of Faith Church Road Parkway, to connect U.S. 74 to Old Monroe Road and help Indian Trail Road and Wesley Chapel-Stouts Road
• Widening Old Monroe Road to four lanes and traffic congestion relief
• Old Monroe Road sidewalk, connecting Sun Valley schools to the Sun Valley commercial district and Indian Trail Road area
• Wesley Chapel-Stouts Road sidewalk, connecting all area neighborhoods
• Seven-mile greenway, connecting Porter Ridge High School to Sun Valley High School and Colonel Beatty Park, most Indian Trail neighborhoods and potentially to Mecklenburg County greenways
• Phase III of Chestnut Parkway
• Old Monroe Road widening and traffic congestion relief continued
• Aquatics center
• Wesley Chapel-Stouts Road improvements