Residents of Havelock appear headed for a property tax increase that’s going to cost them an average of almost $34 more per year.

Residents of Havelock appear headed for a property tax increase that’s going to cost them an average of almost $34 more per year.

Havelock City Manager Frank Bottorff presented a preliminary budget to city commissioners. Though the budget is about $175,000 less than the current year’s $17.09 million spending plan, it includes a property tax rate increase of 2.5 cents per $100 in property value.

Based on the average home value of $134,830 in the city, the average tax increase would be $33.70 for residents.

“This is not the perfect budget, but it is the budget I would recommend in this economic environment,” Bottorff told commissioners.

The budget also includes a proposed 2.5 percent increase for water. For a typical bill of 5,000 gallons of water, residents would pay an extra $2.89 per month, or $34.68 for the year. Capital reserve fees would remain at $2 per month.

The budget includes loan payments on $19.4 million in debt, including $563,874 for the senior center, $122,120 for the Tourist and Event Center, $3.4 million for the West End Fire Station, $616,000 for the ladder fire truck, $525,015 for culverts on Joe’s Branch, $1.2 million for water plant improvements, $701,376 for the new fire annex at the east end station, $3.74 million for a sewer inflow and infiltration project, and $8.49 million for the sewer capacity project to relocate the sewer discharge pipe from Slocum Creek to the Neuse River.

Havelock Mayor Will Lewis proposed that the city go forward and pay off the Tourist and Event Center loan from the general fund, which could free up about one cent to either spend or reduce the proposed tax increase.

Commissioner Danny Walsh said the idea seemed to make sense.

“I think the mayor did a real good job when he showed us how to do the Tourist and Event Center payoff,” he said.

Finance Director Lee Tillman said the city remains on safe financial footing in that the city has its desired 32 percent of the annual budget in its reserves, but she added there is no money to spare to achieve that.

Commissioners are already wrestling with replacement of the city’s animal control truck, the cost of which is estimated at $32,000. The board considered turning city animal control over to Craven County last year — which could be an option again this year — but in the end kept the program. Lewis said failure to purchase the truck would likely reduce the city’s level of service to residents.

“When you look at how austere our budget is and what you are going to cut, the reality of services that you are going to cut are things like animal control,” Lewis said.

The board also discussed street repairs in light of decreasing money from the state to pay for such repairs. Bottorff said hundreds of thousands of dollars would have to be set aside annually for street work that would normally come from state Powell Bill funding. That funding has dropped about $32,000 since 2011 and will likely drop again because the amount is based on the state gasoline tax, which has declined.

“This year we should really sit down and just look at what our vision is and what our priorities are,” Bottorff said. “What are the board’s priorities? Is it recreation improvements? Is it roads? I think we may have to sit there and do our value statements and then try to start matching our effort to those priorities.”

Commissioners are scheduled to meet with city staff again on budget issues at 6 p.m. Thursday at Havelock City Hall.