By Josh Whitener
Matthews residents will be paying slightly higher property taxes in the coming fiscal year.
The Matthews Board of Commissioners voted Monday, June 24, to approve a $20,231,504 budget that calls for a tax increase of 1.5 cents per $100 of taxable property. Starting July 1, the tax rate will increase to 31.75 cents from its current rate of 30.25 cents, meaning an additional $30 a year, or $2.50 a month, for someone who owns a $200,000 house. The property tax increase will be reflected on bills mailed to residents in September, according to a memo from the town.
In neighboring Mint Hill, residents will not see tax or vehicle tag fee increases next year. Commissioners voted June 13 to approve Town Manager Brian Welch’s proposed $11,824,006 budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year.
Commissioners approved the budget Monday evening with little discussion. Mayor Jim Taylor said the decision to raise taxes wasn’t easy for any of the commissioners, adding “82 percent” of the financial factors that influenced the tax increase are “coming from outside the town,” from county, state and federal governments.
“That’s the kind of stuff we’re dealing with,” Taylor said. “… It really was a struggle, but everyone did do their due diligence and contributed to the final resolution.”
According to Blodgett, there were several reasons for raising taxes.
The town expects to lose $459,000 in property and sales tax revenues – an estimated $238,000 of which is due to the county’s flawed revaluation. The Matthews Fire & EMS Department also needs to hire three additional firefighters/EMTs and one administrative staffer, which would cost $162,000 per year.
Blodgett’s original proposal called for a 2-cent tax increase, but commissioners who were concerned about raising taxes asked Blodgett to rework the budget to see if the increase could be reduced or avoided. Blodgett said the tax increase will generate $496,000, while a 2-cent increase would have generated $668,000.
The original budget also called for doubling the vehicle tag fee from $15 to $30, which would have generated an additional $330,000 for street paving and maintenance. Commissioners requested the vehicle tag fee remain at $15.
Choosing a 1.5-cent tax increase over a 2-cent increase will result in delaying the hiring of additional Fire & EMS Department staff by six months, as well as some capital improvement reductions, reductions in economic development and an increase in the fund balance appropriation, according to Blodgett.
“This budget is not an ideal budget,” he said in a memo to commissioners. “The fund balance appropriation of $270,000 is still higher than staff would prefer. Also, the delay in hiring the Fire and EMS personnel helps the (fiscal year 2013-14) budget. However, in (the fiscal year 2014-15) budget, an additional $100,000 will be needed to pay for the full 12-month cost.”
He added in the memo the new federal health insurance requirements could cost the town $200,000 in penalties, as Matthews no longer provides health insurance for town employees and instead gives them a stipend to help cover their own independent policies.
Other highlights of the approved 2013-14 fiscal year budget include:
• 2.5-percent average employee performance salary increases
• Governing body – $170,806, including funds for an out-of-town planning conference
• Town manager and clerk – $408,741
• Police – $5,345,508
• Fire & EMS – $1,321,523
• Human resources – $1,703,042
• Finance/administration – $388,769
• Tourism grants – $56,000
• Matthews Alive! Festival 2013 – $45,000
• Mecklenburg County Sportsplex – $175,000
• Matthews Historical Museum funding – $38,000, which covers operational expenses and one part-time employee
To view the entire 2013-14 fiscal year budget, go to www.matthewsnc.gov/TownGovernment/AgendaandMinutes/June242013.aspx and click on the link under “Unfinished Business,” item A.