Tax increase recommended by city manager

Water/sewer fees may increase

Using a slide show presentation as a visual aid, Interim City Manager Ed Wyatt presented staff recommendations for the fiscal 2008-2009 budget.

Frequently during the presentation, Wyatt emphasized the austerity of the budget, noting that operational costs are increasing while revenues remain flat.

One of the few bright spots in the series of recommendations was that sanitation fees could be reduced from $27 per month to $25 per month. The reduction, however, comes with a cut in service from two pickups per week to one for residential trash service. Also, those receiving Henderson water service outside of the corporate limits will see their rate reduced from 250% of the inside rate to 240%.

Wyatt recommended an increase in the current tax rate of $.67 per hundred of four cents. When adjusted against the recent property revaluation, the rate will be $.59 per hundred dollars of valuation.

Many Henderson property owners saw increases in their property values of 50%, 100%, and, by some reports, 300% from the last revaluation eight years ago.

Other increases include:

  • A 7% increase in water rates
  • A 10% increase in sewer rates
  • A 5% increase in the Kerr Lake Regional Water System rate
  • The interim manager told council members that the fund balance will be 10% of the general fund at the end of the current year. This is an increase of .9% from 2006-2007.

    “Ten percent is entirely too low,” Wyatt said.

    Wyatt mentioned that one of the cost-cutting measures recommended is the elimination of the eCivis grant-seeking software purchased with the approval of the previous city council. Wyatt said that it would save $10,000 per year.

    Kathy Powell is to lead the city with what Wyatt termed “a more aggressive grant approach”.

    City employees are slated to receive a 3% cost of living adjustment in August of this year with merit raises averaging 2.5% in January of 2009. This would be offset by a proposed increase in the cost of health insurance for employees with plans that cover spouses and/or children. The deductible, however, could decrease from $2,500 to $500.

    Although Code Compliance Director Corey Williams requested $131,000 for the demolition of nuisance structures, only $45,000 was recommended in the budget. Wyatt mentioned that Friends of Clean Up Henderson will contribute $21,000 for title searches and related costs.

    Wyatt emphasized that the county will assume 75% of the operating costs of the H. Leslie Perry Memorial Library over the next three years.

    There will be a 22% increase in funding to Emergency 911. This is due to pay adjustments, increased calls, purchase of equipment, and the addition of two positions.

    $366,000 has been budgeted for repair of sewer inflow and infiltration (I & I). The city is currently under a special order of consent from the state to improve the situation. Wyatt admitted that since the full extent of the sewer difficulties are unknown that repairs could cost more than estimated.

    Wyatt concluded his presentation with several recommendations for the future:

  • Annex areas adjacent to city
  • Require voluntary annexation for water/sewer service
  • Establish an efficiency task force
  • City should play a more active role in industrial and economic development
  • Find ways to capitalize on water resources
  • Monitor county’s practice of foreclosure to recover property taxes
  • Wyatt suggested a budget session on Monday, June 2 at 5:00 p.m. that he said would be three to four hours long. However, the council failed to set a time.