Havelock commissioners held fast to their pledge not to raise property taxes, but the result may be an increase in water and sewer rates, trash fees and a loss of employee positions.
After receiving instructions from the board last week to rework the 2013-14 budget, Finance Director Lee Tillman presented the proposal to the board during a meeting Monday at Havelock City Hall.
The proposed $15.6 million spending plan leaves the property tax rate at 46.5 cents per $100 in property value but does include a 1.7 percent Consumer Price Index increase on water and sewer rates that will mean an average increase of $1.25 per month per household. The cost of trash pickup would increase 55 cents per month from $13.95 to $14.50, less than the $16.77 originally proposed.
Commissioners agreed to cut the public information officer position from 40 hours per week to 24 hours and eliminate a senior planner position in the city’s planning department. The group considered but held back on cutting a recreation maintenance position.
The city also plans changes to collection of yard debris as well as old furniture and appliances.
Public services director Bill Ebron said time and money could be saved on the estimated 1,500 stops city trucks make at residences in a given month if residents simply made their yard waste neater along the road.
“We would require that it would be placed in an acceptable manner, all in one direction,” he said. “It’s amazing what we go get in trying to pick it up. It amounts to a lot of time trying to pull things apart. It’s like dealing with hard crabs. Everything connects up. They are pulling it all over the street. You’re adding time to the whole thing, so you get into labor impact, fuel costs for the whole time that truck is running, so it does add up.”
He also said residents would have to place all leaves, pine straw, grass and hedge clippings, and small twigs in clear plastic bags, except during loose leaf season from November to February.
“The enforcement of it would have to be tightened up considerably,” Ebron said. “Initially we are going to get some phone calls.”
Commissioners did raise concerns.
“I’m not going to ask senior citizens to bag their leaves,” Jim Stuart said. “I’m not going to ask people who may not be physically capable to pack that stuff up.”
Ebron said many other cities use the same system.
“This is not recreating the wheel. This is pretty much standard,” Ebron said.
Commissioner Karen Lewis said bagging yard waste is designed to help the city.
“We’re not saying that they are not going to get the service,” she said. “We’re just asking for them to do just a little bit to help us.”
Havelock Mayor Jimmy Sanders said for residents with a lot of trees, bagging leaves would be a huge job.
“It is no small task for a lot of people to do that,” he said.
Stuart said he would rather increase taxes by sixth-tenths of a cent than ask that residents bag their leaves.
“A 75-year-old arthritic individual is not going to want to bag that mess,” he said.
Commissioner George Liner mentioned hidden costs for residents.
“Why make them go out and buy plastic bags,” he said. “It’s costing them more to have to buy the bags.”
Currently, discarded items such as old furniture, mattresses, refrigerators and stoves are picked up once per week, but under the proposal, residents would have to call to have such items picked up.
Havelock has scheduled a public hearing on the proposed 2013-14 budget for 7 p.m. June 10 at Havelock City Hall.
“We need to hear from the public about how they feel,” Liner said.