07/03/06 — No new taxes for town's citizens

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No new taxes for town's citizens

By Turner Walston
Published in News on July 3, 2006 1:52 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Residents won't see an increase on their tax bills next year in Mount Olive -- and they won't see any cutbacks in services, either, although increasing gas prices could cause them to pay a little more for waste disposal, the town's new manager said.

The budget passed by town commissioners is similar to last year's, town manager Charles Brown said. Employees will get a slight raise, and a fuel surcharge has been added for waste disposal, but many items remain the same. Property taxes, for example, will remain at 59 cents per $100 valuation.

The total budget involves slightly more than $4.6 million.

"We didn't cut any services," Brown said. "We didn't increase taxes."

Brown said sewer rates went up from $23 to $27.50 per month in March to help pay for a new wastewater treatment plant.

"They've already seen an increase in their sewer rates, which was mandated by a bond issue in 2004, but that really has nothing to do with this year's budget," he said.

Mount Olive residents will notice a slight increase from Waste Industries.

"They went up 4 percent," Brown said. "Basically, it's a fuel surcharge. I think it'll cost the average customer about another 90-some cents."

The budget does include salary increases for the town's 45 employees.

"That's pretty much across the board, 2.5 percent," Brown said. "That's pretty much trying to let them keep pace with the cost of living."

Brown said town officials had to work hard to make the salary increases work.

"We first of all didn't think we were going to be able to do it," he said. "When we got down to the very end, we were able to make some adjustments."

Brown said some departments had requested funding for projects or equipment that weren't absolute necessities this year. Cutting those items made room for the raises.

The town will also purchase a new street sweeper, using only state funds.

For the first time this year, Mount Olive's cemetery fund will be self-supporting.

"That fund was costing us a lot of money," Brown said. "We've made some changes in that in terms of contracted services."

Previously, the sale of plots at Maplewood and Carver cemeteries had been the only source of income for the fund.

"The funeral homes contracted to have somebody dig them, and whatever money they charged above and beyond that contract price was money to them," Brown said.

But on June 1, the town took over openings and closings of gravesites. The revenues will make the fund self-sufficient, Brown said.

"That will bring in enough income to pay for those contract services to care for the cemeteries," he said.

Maintenance of the cemeteries costs about $35,000 annually, he added.