After three special meetings beginning in January to discuss budget needs and wants, the Jamestown Town Council saw a preliminary budget for fiscal year 2023-24 at its April 18 meeting. Town Manager Matthew Johnson and Finance Director Judy Gallman listened to concerns and presented a revised Proposed Budget and Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) to the Council at the May 16 meeting. There were just some minor changes from the previous draft.
“The recommended budget for the fiscal year 2023-24 totals $14,400,580 for all Town operations, capital improvements, transfers and debt service,” Johnson said.
“This represents a 22 percent decrease from the current amended 2022-23 budget. That decrease is attributable to fewer capital expenditures expected.
“At the current tax rate, the amount of ad valorem and property tax revenues that are estimated to be approximately $3,187,350,” Johnson added.
In the Water and Sewer Fund, the water rate will increase by approximately 4 percent over the current rate. The Town is doing this to pass on rate increases from the Piedmont Triad Regional Water Authority and the City of High Point. Jamestown purchases water from both entities.
Sewer rates will increase approximately 30 percent based on the same rate Jamestown pays High Point for sewer treatment. The 2022-23 increase was only 7.59 percent.
“Water and sewer usage fees are projected to bring in approximately $3.99 million in revenue,” Johnson said.
The recommended budget includes a tax rate of $0.585 per $100 of assessed property valuation, $0.10 more than the previous year.
The public hearing on the budget was continued until June 20 when a vote will be taken.
Councilmembers split on new vehicle tax
New this budget year is a motor vehicle tax, estimated to bring in $303,300 at the $0.585 tax rate. After months of discussion this year, not to mention in previous years, two councilmembers opposed the new tax.
“There are valid reasons for the proposed tax increases and the water/sewer rate increases, garbage and stormwater,” said Councilmember Martha Wolfe. “However, I continue to oppose the motor vehicle fee at this time.
“[The proposed Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan] states that around 27 percent of Jamestown population is 65 years or older and 17 percent identify as disabled. The Town does have a revenue stream in the Powell Bill fund [for street paving], so in light of the inflation that’s affected everyone, but especially those on fixed income, those on disability and single moms and single dads that are raising kids on one income and Child Care is out the roof now … I keep coming back to that human factor and I make a motion to not implement the motor vehicle fee in the ‘23-’24 budget year.”
Councilmember Lawrence Straughn seconded the motion, echoing what Wolfe had said and noting the Town supports AARP, people on fixed incomes. The vote was split, with councilmembers John Capes and Rebecca Rayborn voting to keep the motor vehicle tax. In a rare occurrence, Mayor Lynn Montgomery was asked to cast the tie-breaking vote. Montgomery voted against the motion, so the tax remained in the budget.
Straughn also presented a motion to remove the $0.10 tax increase since property evaluations mean people are already paying more property tax. This motion died for lack of a second.
Rayborn acknowledged that people are paying more for everything these days but recognized Town staff have pared down the budget as much as possible for this upcoming year.
“I think we have cut as much as we can,” Rayborn said. “Nobody likes an increase but it’s not a frivolous increase by any means but we have to do that to keep the town running.”
Capes agreed with Rayborn.
“In many cases, things have basically doubled in cost,” Capes said referencing recent new structures like restrooms at Wrenn Miller Park. “The constituents want to continue to maintain the level of the services that we provide and the way that we do them and those things are coming at an increased cost. This is something we don’t take lightly.”
The budget discussion can be viewed beginning at the 6.5-minute mark of the May 16 Town Council meeting at www.youtube.com/c/TownofJamestownNC.
In other business
The Town’s Public Works Staff were recognized as a part of Public Services Recognition Week, which was May 7-13.
The Council had the opportunity to review a new Comprehensive Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan for the town. The plan identifies potential infrastructure projects, partnerships, policies and programs that will make bicycling and walking in Jamestown more welcoming to people of all ages and abilities. The plan includes bicycle and pedestrian network recommendations, catalyst projects, and an action plan for implementation. After a brief discussion, the Council unanimously approved adoption of the plan. The full plan, including the appendix as well as comments received from NCDOT, can be found at https://www.jamestown-nc.gov/JamestownBikePedestrian.
To ensure the Town is competitive in the marketplace as an employer, the Council unanimously approved the adoption of a Pay Classification Study.
Lamar Lee was appointed to the Parks and Recreation Committee.
The Council approved financing for the purchase of five mowers for Jamestown Park and Golf Course.
The announced closed session relating to attorney-client privilege for 301 Lee St. was removed from the agenda.
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