By Kara Lopp
If Mint Hill commissioners approve the town manager’s recommended budget, residents won’t see any tax or fee increases next year, despite decreases in sales tax revenue and other key town cash producers.
Town Manager Brian Welch presented his proposed $11,824,006 budget to commissioners Wednesday, May 29, during a budget workshop. Welch’s budget keeps the tax rate at 27 cents per $100 of taxable property and vehicle tag fee at $10 per year. A public hearing on the budget will be held during the board’s 7 p.m. meeting June 13, a Thursday, before commissioners are expected to vote on the proposal.
In neighboring Matthews, Town Manager Hazen Blodgett is recommending a 2-cent tax increase for the 2013-14 fiscal year, which would raise the tax rate from 30.25 cents to 32.25 cents per $100 of taxable property. He’s also proposing doubling the town’s vehicle tag fee from $15 a year to $30 a year. Town commissioners said this week they want Blodgett to rework the budget to reduce the proposed increases.
“I’m pretty happy we’ve been able to hold the line and not recommend a tax increase,” Mint Hill’s Welch said. “I’m very proud of that. I’m going to keep (a tax increase) at bay as long as we can.”
“I’m very pleased. I think Brian (Welch) keeps his eye on the ball,” Commissioner Brenda McRae said.
Welch’s recommendation not to raise taxes or fees comes despite continued revenue losses in sales tax and investment earnings and refunds from the county’s flawed revaluation.
The town is expecting about $100,000 less in sales tax revenue than it consistently received several years ago, Welch said, and investment earnings have been “relatively flat” for at least the past five years. In the 2013-14 fiscal year, Welch “conservatively” budgeted $1,240,000 in sales tax revenue and just $5,000 in investment earnings, according to the proposed budget.
Mint Hill has refunded about $100,000 to residents this fiscal year who won appeals for incorrect county revaluation figures, Welch said, and expects to refund about another $80,000 during the 2013-14 fiscal year.
Welch’s proposed budget includes:
• 2.5 percent merit raises for town employees
• $100,000 for new sidewalk construction and $10,000 for sidewalk repairs
• $30,000 for two new K-9 dogs and training for new handlers
• $115,500 in tourism grants for nonprofits (the same amount given last year)
• $21,250 for contracted engineering services
• $180,000 for Phyllis Lane repairs
• $95,000 to buy a backhoe for the public works department
• $20,000 for Mint Hill Madness festival
During the about 30-minute budget workshop, Commissioner Tina Ross questioned Welch’s plans for looking for additional park space. The town is especially in desperate need of “active” parks with athletic fields, she said.
“I think we have kids who need (active parks),” she said. “I’d like for us to look at expanding our park space while there is still open space.”
Mayor Biggers agreed, adding he’d like to see at least one pocket park in downtown Mint Hill.
“As we move forward, I think we need to have a workshop to talk about that,” he said. A workshop date hasn’t been set.