06/30/08 — Mount Olive looks at $181,000 more in general revenue funds for next year

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Mount Olive looks at $181,000 more in general revenue funds for next year

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 30, 2008 1:47 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- An additional $78,000 in property taxes from the new Wal-Mart and additional development at that site account for about 43 percent of an $181,000 increase in the Town of Mount Olive's $2,930,751 general fund budget revenues.

The additional tax revenues were generated since this will be the first full taxable year for Wal-Mart and the new Wendy's, Catos, Shoe Show and small strip shopping center being built at the Wal-Mart site. Also contributing to the increase is the Andy's Burgers, Shakes and Fries corporate headquarters that was satellite annexed by the town last year. The headquarters is located north of town off the Old Mount Olive Highway.

All told, the addition will increase the town's current year taxes from $981,445 for fiscal year 2007-08 to $1,059,154.

A $1 increase in the town's trash pickup fee is expected to generate about $20,000 and an increase in revenues from utility franchise taxes paid to the town another $50,000.

The total $5,619,867 budget approved by the town board last week did not raise the town's now six-year-old tax rate of 59 cents per $100 valuation.

During the board's budget vote last week, Commissioner Kenny Talton raised the tax question.

Town Manager Charles Brown said any potential discussion of higher taxes would hinge on annexation.

A bill pending in the General Assembly would place a temporary moratorium on involuntary annexation.

"We really need to look at that (annexation)," he said.

Areas to be considered include the Mount Olive Airport and the town's industrial park, both located north of town off the Old Mount Olive Highway.

"I think that what we are able to do on that (annexation) in the coming years is going to impact whether we are going to have to talk in terms of if we are going to have a tax increase or not," he said.

The town originally reduced its estimated sales tax revenues by 10 percent in preparing the budget. Now, however, it appears those revenues will be higher than anticipated, Brown said.

Brown had thought the town would need to dip into its fund balance to offset lost sales tax revenues. That is no longer the case, he said.

If sales tax dollars remain constant and annexation can be carried out then the town might not have to look at higher taxes, Brown said.

He said persons would have a difficult time finding many municipalities like Mount Olive that have gone six years without some kind of tax increase.

"But I think it is too early to talk in terms of whether we can get by without one (tax increase) or not," Brown said.

Other highlights of the budget include implementation of a pay and job classification plan and adjustments in the town's water rate is based on usage.

Other funds in the budget include:

n Water/sewer, $2,338,705.

n Municipal airport, $104,828.

n Powell Aid, $165,778.

n Waylin Fire District, $79,805.

Brown said the town has little input into the airport, Powell Aid and Waylin Fire District budgets.

Powell Aid Funds are state dollars allocated to the town for sidewalks, street projects and related costs and operation of the town's street sweeper.

The town contributes about $30,000 to the airport fund. Other sources include Wayne County ($33,281) and hangar leases ($18,057).

The Waylin budget is funded through a fire tax. Wayne County's portion is $69,795. Duplin County chips in $10,010 since a small portion of the town is actually in Duplin County.

The water/sewer fund is mandated to be self-sufficient and has been for the past three years. Prior to that, there have been years when the town has had to shift funds to that department. The reverse isn't true -- water/sewer funds can only be used in that department.

This year, water revenues are projected to be $1.067 million, while sewer revenues are projected to generate $1.112 million. Had the town not implemented the new water rate, water revenues would have been $730,998, while sewer revenues would have been $970,004.

Town officials hail the adjustments to the water rate as not only being fairer, but as a way to generate the revenues needed to maintain the system.

Also helping out on the budget's bottom line was the payoff of several large pieces of equipment that will save the town between $50,000 to $60,000, Brown said.

"That is pretty significant," he said.

There are two notable personnel issues addressed in the budget -- the hiring of a full-time recreation director (about $38,000 for salary, insurance and all other benefits) and the police department which is fully staffed for the first time in several years.

Tom Swinson and Jimmy Adams will continue their part-time work in the recreation department. Brown said they both have "done a great job," but are limited in the number of hours they can devote to the jobs.

The town is in the process of finalizing the job description for the recreation director.

"We want to put together a parks and recreation commission," Brown said. "What'd we like to do is put some citizens together who can have some input and interest in the parks and recreation program and maybe get their input on interviewing and hiring a director."

That is expected to take at least 30 days, he said.

The police department's budget reflects an increase of about $61,000 from $820,502 to $881,846.

Most of the increase is reflected in the department being full staffed for the first time in several years. The salary line item increased by some $43,129 from $490,405 to $533,534 representing the full staff and salary increases provided in the pay plan.

Also, the town is buying three new, more fuel-efficient vehicles, Brown said.

The fire department's budget increased by just over $40,000 -- $30,331 of which is budgeted for capital outlay for equipment and vehicles and a portion that will be used toward the town's new 100-foot platform truck.