06/23/06 — Princeton property tax rate won't increase

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Princeton property tax rate won't increase

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on June 23, 2006 1:46 PM

PRINCETON -- Princeton residents will not be paying a higher property tax rate in the coming year.

The Princeton Town Board of Commissioners scrapped a proposed two-cent increase this week. The board made the change, even though no one attended a public hearing at the Community Building.

At the urging of Mayor Don Rains, the board voted unanimously to approve a budget for 2006-07 that includes the current 54-cent tax rate.

Town Clerk Marla Ashworth said that by keeping the same rate, though, Princeton could not pay merit raises to town employees. The board did approve a 3.6 percent cost-of-living raise for them. But a full-time position in the clerk's office could not be funded, and Cathy Woodard will remain as a part-time employee.

The board also had other good news for residents. The basic monthly water and sewer fee was lowered 67 cents to $11.23 for in-town residents. Commercial users pay 1.25 times as much, and out-of-town customers pay 1.5 times as much. Customers are charged $4.40 per 1,000 gallons of water used and $8.40 per 1,000 gallons for sewer.

The monthly trash collection rate, however, was increased $1.15 to $16. Mrs. Ashworth explained that Waste Management, the hauler, had hiked its fee by about 4 percent and added a fuel surcharge.

When the board voted only on the tax rate, two members, David Starling and Billy Sutton, voted to keep it at 54 cents for the second year in a row. Commissioner Eddie Haddock opposed the lower rate. The fourth member, Walter A. Martin Jr., was absent.

Later, when the entire budget came up for a vote during the 45-minute session, the three commissioners accepted the rate and the budget.

Mrs. Ashworth explained that Princeton will have extra expenses for electricity, maintenance and telephones when the new Town Hall is opened in the fall.

The Police Department also will have higher telephone and communications costs created by the new Town Hall and because of advancing technology. The board approved upgraded digital radios and possibly a taser gun to stun unruly detainees for the police.

The Princeton Fire Department will get an annual donation, plus 5 cents from all property and vehicle taxes collected.

Princeton is expected to get a $13,500 state grant for a countywide center to recycle oil, oil filters and anti-freeze with a $1,500 town match. Mrs. Ashworth said she believes the grant would be approved in July.

The general fund budget was set at $612,000, a $10,000 drop from the proposed document.

The water and sewer budget totaled $515,000. The town will make a $79,079 payment this year on sewer improvements.

A new lift station will be installed between Smith and Mercer streets, and some lines will be replaced. Mrs. Ashworth said the money will come from $200,000 left from previous projects.

The town also budgeted $2,000 for the library, half of the 2005-06 outlay that was supplemented by a $3,000 donation for upgraded computer equipment.

Money was approved for daily maintenance at the Ray Floors Park, and additional items will be added as needs are identified.

Unlike previous years, Mrs. Ashworth noted that the town does not have to pay fines for sewage spills or do much work on the water and sewer system.

"We're in pretty good shape," she said.