A proposed 2017-2018 budget was presented Thursday night during a Mount Airy Board of Commissioners meeting which calls for a 5-cent hike in the city property tax rate.
Under the preliminary spending plan unveiled by City Manager Barbara Jones, water and sewer charges will remain unchanged during the next fiscal year beginning this summer, on the heels of a 4 percent increase imposed last year.
“The proposed budget meets the directives of the board,” Jones said during remarks after she distributed bound copies of it to each council member at the meeting.
She explained that it reflects reductions in expenditures while also increasing the starting pay of police officers, which was a board priority to address ongoing vacancies on Mount Airy’s force thought to be pay-related.
Also, the proposed budget calls for the implementation of Phase II of a pay-increase plan for all city employees, which began with a 3 percent raise last year.
It calls for general fund expenditures of $13,102,903, which the city manager says is 12.3 percent less than the adjusted budget for the present fiscal year.
The commissioners had instructed Jones earlier this year to prepare a budget not exceeding $12 million, but in later discussions were unwilling to take austerity measures to accomplish that and meet the priority for police raises. Included were proposed layoffs of nine workers in additional municipal departments, among other steps.
But in order to offset the salary increases and additional budget demands, the 5-cent property tax hike is included along with plans to use $877,789 from Mount Airy’s fund balance, or cash reserves.
Raising the tax rate from the present 48 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to 53 cents would mean the owner of a $130,000 home, for example, would pay $65 more next year.
The increase would generate additional general fund revenues of $543,000, according to budget documents.
Capital outlay spending in the general fund budget, which is targeted for major building- and equipment-related needs, is put at $493,000 for the next fiscal year. Jones says this would allow the city to stay on target with replacements of police vehicles, paving and some equipment.
Meanwhile, the starting salary for police officers would jump from $29,140 to $34,000 effective July 1, when the next fiscal year begins. After six months, new hires would be eligible for a 2.5 percent pay hike, to $34,850, and another 2.5 percent increase if they are performing proficiently based on a final probationary review.
This would raise their salary to $35,700.
Also, the preliminary budget eliminates a new city marketing director position.
Citizens will have a chance to weigh in on the package during a public hearing scheduled on June 1, before the budget is adopted later that month.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.