Council adopts budget

Jun. 17, 2013 @ 08:21 PM

The City Council approved High Point’s annual budget Monday after turning back a last-ditch effort to lower the property tax rate.
The $342.8 million budget takes effect July 1 and represents an increase of about 4.7 percent, or $15 million, over this year’s spending plan. It maintains the property tax rate at 67.5 cents per $100 of assessed value. The owner of a $100,000 house will pay $675 in 2013 city property taxes. Retail electric rates will increase 4.9 percent July 1, with water and sewer rates set to rise 4 to 6 percent at some point later in the fiscal year.
In addition, council went with City Manager Strib Boynton’s recommendation to impose a new $5 per month garbage collection fee for 37,000 residential and small-business customers.
Councilman Britt Moore made a motion to approve the budget, which was seconded by Councilwoman Judy Mendenhall. Council members Jim Davis, Jeff Golden and Becky Smothers, along with Mayor Bernita Sims, voted in favor.
Councilman Jason Ewing made a substitute motion to direct city staff to reduce the budget by an additional $445,750, which would have yielded a half-cent reduction in the property tax rate.
“I know that’s still a lot of money, but I feel that we need to show that we are at least trying to come up with more savings,” said Ewing.
The idea generated support only from council members Foster Douglas and Jay Wagner.
Douglas advocated a 2 percent cut across all city departments, but the idea failed to garner widespread support, in part because city officials projected that the reductions could negatively impact the police and fire departments.
“Last year, we passed a utility increase that I thought was putting strain on people that can least afford it. Now, we’re coming back not only with an additional utility increase, but we want to add a solid-waste fee as well,” Douglas said. “I think we’re putting too much strain on the citizens of High Point.”
The bulk of the increase in the size of the budget is due to a rise in the city’s wholesale electric costs and several capital expenditures, including an upgrade to the city’s recycling facility, a new stormwater improvement project and the purchase of new fire trucks to replace older ones.
Over the course of six reviews, council trimmed the amount of Boynton’s recommended budget increase by about $1 million, electing not to impose a suggested $5 increase in the annual $5 fee all High Point vehicle owners pay the city.
City employees will not receive a pay raise in the new budget, one year after being granted a 1.5 percent salary increase.