The Jamestown Town Council spent about three hours on March 23 during a budget retreat with about 30 minutes of it devoted to discussion about a possible motor vehicle tax to be implemented in the 2023-34 budget. With a suggested $30 per vehicle tax, the Town would raise approximately $90,000 each year. Any new development will increase that figure even more.
“The Powell Bill is not enough,” said Town Manager Matthew Johnson of the funds allotted by the State of North Carolina. “Now is the time to do it, before the development.
“It’s better to do it this way [a motor vehicle tax] than to have a huge property tax increase.”
“This would also target apartment dwellers,” said Mayor Lynn Montgomery, noting these people do not pay property taxes.
A motor vehicle tax is nothing new to Town Council discussions. The matter has been brought forth several times in recent years. Neighboring municipalities have had motor vehicle taxes for many years on vehicles that have a valid license tag.
The new tax would help the town catch up on projects, however, the cost of asphalt has risen and it is hard to find a company to do small paving jobs. There are 20 public streets scheduled for resurfacing in the upcoming fiscal year.
None of the three councilmembers present at the meeting (Lawrence Straughn was absent) were in favor of the tax but John Capes and Rebecca Rayborn said it made sense. Martha Wolfe was opposed.
The Town is suggesting a possible 4 percent increase in water rates and 30 percent in sewer due to the cost of chemicals and other reasons.
“The projected water/sewer payments for Eastside [Water Treatment Plant] and Riverdale Pump Station for expansion should be way over [what they] projected,” said Finance Director Judy Gallman. “We will be paying out millions of dollars.”
The Water/Sewer Fund of the proposed Capital Improvement Program indicates Jamestown’s share for 2023/24 to be just under $1 million for Eastside and approximately $3.5 million for Riverdale. Fiscal year 2023/23 budgeted approximately $2.9 million for the Riverdale Pump Station Expansion project and Eastside improvements.
Therefore, a new Stormwater Fund has been established and a new stormwater utility fee of approximately $5 per month for in-town residents will be implemented in January 2024.
“We may need six months to educate the citizens,” Johnson said. The reasoning is a recent audit, capital projects and in-house items. He added that all stormwater systems must be inspected annually.
The new rate could mean an average monthly water/sewer charge would be approximately $11 more in town, and approximately $17 out of town.
“A separate fund will track expenses and free up the General Fund,” noted Montgomery.
Gallman and Johnson suggested a cost-of-living raise of 4 percent, with a merit increase of 0-3 percent to employees.
Johnson said a recent pay classification shows some staff wages were too high and some were too low, based on similar markets. He said those with too high salaries would not get as large a raise until the Town catches up. He noted there was not a large disparity.
Capital Improvement Program (CIP)
One item on the CIP budget is a sidewalk along the east side of Penny Road from West Main Street to the lake. Wolfe questioned the feasibility of doing this sidewalk since High Point has delayed construction of their portion of a Penny Road sidewalk until 2028.
Public Services Director Paul Blanchard remarked that the water line along Penny Road needs replacement and work does not need to be coordinated with the sidewalk project.
Improvements are currently being made to Town Hall, but the Civic Center improvements will have to wait, according to Johnson. However, architectural designs could be done. While Capes agreed, Rayborn did not believe the Civic Center should be renovated.
Wolfe believes since the Civic Center facility use policy has not been updated, the Town could not tell an architect what is needed. She suggested holding a special Council meeting to update the policy.
Golf Maintenance Supervisor Jamie Claybrook said a Kubota tractor can be used for both mowing the golf course and other landscaping projects with different attachments. He is requesting the purchase of the tractor, which is cheaper than an earlier suggestion but will do more that what the Town now has.
In the Recreation department, installation of the Wrenn Miller Park restrooms was a hot topic with Council members. These would replace the need to walk across Guilford Road to Town Hall to use the facilities. These restrooms have been discussed for several years and are very much in need.
Since the grant for the inclusive playground coming to Jamestown Park does not include restrooms, Capes suggested delaying restrooms there and installing the one at Wrenn Miller Park. Capes and Rayborn agreed. Parks Superintendent Scott Coakley said that since the new playground would be created after another project, that restroom could be put into the 2024/25 budget.
Coakley suggested a new automatic lane marker machine for striping the athletic fields for $41,000. It presently takes three men 3.5 hours to do it. The new machine would cut the time down to one man working 23 minutes automatically. The fields must be re-marked on a regular basis due to use.
Rayborn suggested considering increasing the amount allotted to non-profit contract services and Capes suggested encouraging other groups to apply.
Several adjustments were made to the proposed budget and CIP during the meeting. The Council will meet for an unprecedented third time to discuss the budget on April 14.
“There is a lot going on, lots of projects,” Johnson said about the extra meetings.
The preliminary budget will be presented at the May Town Council meeting. The public is urged to attend all Town Council meetings.
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