Proposed spending plan does not include tax increase

Havelock commissioners seemed satisfied with the proposed 2017-18 city budget, which won’t cost residents any additional money in property taxes compared to the current year.

The Board of Commissioners met Monday night and opened the floor for public comments on the proposed $19 million spending plan, about $1 million less than the current fiscal year. However, no residents stood up to speak, so commissioners offered praise for city staffers who reduced overall spending while providing a 2 percent cost-of-living raise for city workers and improving capital project funding.

“This has been one of the easiest and best budgets I’ve been through,” said longtime commissioner Danny Walsh.

He said he was especially pleased considering the loss of or cuts to several revenue streams – such as from business license fees and state Powell Bill road funds – that the city maintained its current property rate of 59 cents per $100 in property value.

Residents will see some out-of-pocket increases for services, such as 32 cents for trash collection per month for a total of $16.85. Permit fees will increase by 2 percent, and water and sewer bills will go up $1.61 per month for the average customer.

“It is an increase,” Lee Tillman, the city’s finance director, told the board about the water rate. “I’m not trying to say it isn’t, but it is a very minor increase.”

Commissioners seemed especially pleased that more money was being put into capital projects, or infrastructure. Overall, 11 percent of expenses is tied up in capital projects in the proposed budget, as opposed to 1 percent in the current budget.

“We’re really investing in infrastructure,” Tillman said.

Commissioner Pete Van Vliet pointed out capital projects for the water fund had gone from 6 percent to 19 percent.

“We’re making better use of what we have,” he said.

He was so pleased with the proposed budget that he asked if commissioners could vote on the spending plan Monday night instead of waiting until the board’s June 26 meeting.

“Do we have to wait that long?” he said.

Technically, the board could have voted Monday night but instead decided to wait just in case members received any additional feedback from residents who were unable to attend Monday night’s meeting.

Havelock Mayor Will Lewis said all 120 city employees contributed to a successful budget process and that the work portrayed the visions of board members and the nearly 21,000 residents of the city.

“It’s the kind of process they should be proud of,” Lewis said of city residents.

Commissioners have scheduled a June 12 budget work session for 6 p.m. at Havelock City Hall. However, Lewis suggested that the session could be canceled if board members had no other major budget concerns.

Either way, the board will be set to approve the budget at its June 26 meeting. The budget would go into effect on July 1.