Maggie to hold tax rate steady for 2016-17
Maggie Valley residents and businesses won’t have to worry about paying a higher property tax rate for the next year, but they may see an increase in the fees they pay for certain services.
Maggie Valley is proposing a $3,548,388 budget for next fiscal year. The budget is 3.5 percent higher than last year thanks to modest increases in property and sales tax revenue.
Solid waste services to increase
In his initial 2016-17 budget presentation to the board of aldermen, Maggie Valley Town Manager Nathan Clark recommended maintaining the 39 cents per $100 of assessed property value tax rate, but did propose a change to the town’s solid waste fee.
Clark said implementing a $5 monthly solid waste collection fee for all residents would generate nearly $60,000 in the first year. The town would net only about $24,000 of that and spend the rest on upgrading its recycling program to offer 95-gallon recycling cans for residents.
Board members seemed split on whether they would support implementing a new fee for residents.
“I have no problem recouping costs, but I do have an objection as a resident who can’t access this service,” said Alderwoman Janet Banks.
She added that a $5 fee wouldn’t be fair to residents like herself who can’t put her trash bins out for pickup because she can’t keep them secure from bears and other wildlife. She also said it wouldn’t be fair for half-time residents who use the service only for a few months.
Even if people can’t take advantage of the service all year, Public Works Director Mike Mehaffey said the town still had to pay to make the service available to residents all year.
Alderman Mike Eveland didn’t seem to have a problem implementing a new $5 fee for trash and recycling collections. He compared it to the $5 fee Maggie Valley implemented a couple of years ago on all vehicle tags to recoup revenues lost when the state said municipalities couldn’t charge for a business privilege license.
“I pay $5 on my tag now — it really doesn’t matter that much to me,” he said. “For people with a $400,000 house that is nothing. If we don’t do a $5 fee – let’s go up to 44 cents on tax rate.”
Sewer impact fees to increase
Clark also suggested a slight increase in sewer impact fees for new residential and commercial construction from $6.50 per gallon to $6.75 per gallon. The cost basically breaks down to a per-bedroom price for sewer capacity, meaning the cost would increase from $780 per bedroom to $810 per bedroom. Clark said this is a small increase compared to what a 2015 McGill Engineering study suggested. McGill said Maggie should charge $16 per gallon or $1,920 per bedroom to completely recoup costs, but that would be a hardship to new residential and business growth.
The proposed budget will keep the minimum sewer user rate the same, but proposes an increase to the minimum fee from $4.50 per thousand gallons to $5 per thousand gallons.
“Like modest increases in sewer impact fees, this slight increase on over the minimum charge provides the sewer fund with additional fiscal stability,” Clark said.
Out-of-town sewer customers could also see a 5–percent increase to their sewer impact fees. The proposed budget recommends establishing an out-of-town commercial sewer impact fee minimum of $2,025. The minimum in-town commercial sewer impact fee is $1,500.
Planning and zoning fees to increase
As planning and zoning projects in Maggie Valley become more complicated and time-consuming for Town Planner Andrew Bowen, Clark thinks the town’s fees should also go up.
Fees were raised slightly in 2014-15 and remained the same in 2015-16, but Clark said the proposed hikes were still in line with similar municipalities. If approved, many of the fees would double — major subdivisions would go from $100 per lot to $200 a lot and minor subdivisions would go from $50 per lot to $100 per lot. Rezoning fees would only increase slightly — under an acre would go from $200 to $225 and 10 acres or more would go from $500 to $600.
Labor costs represent about 33 percent of the overall town budget. Clark didn’t recommend a cost-of-living wage increase for its 22 employees but did suggest a salary increase for employees distributed through the town’s pay class designation. Not all employees will receive the same amount but it will be anywhere from a 1 to 3 percent raise based on employee evaluations. The total cost of the raises will not exceed $27,688.
The town of Maggie Valley will be able to save some money this year on health insurance costs now that town employees are part of the statewide insurance plan, thanks to legislation passed in Raleigh last year.
“On April 1 we joined the North Carolina state health plan with Blue Cross Blue Shield coverage,” Clark said. “Most employees have greatly benefitted from the switch and it saved us $18,000.”
The town plans to invest about $209,000 next year into the Maggie Valley Parks System. Clark said the plan was to spend $180,000 to enhance Mary Rathbone Rich Memorial Park, which serves as the western gateway to the town on Soco Road. A picnic table with a bathroom, a small unmanned visitor center, walking trail and river deck will be installed. A $25,000 grant from the Tourism Development Authority will help pay for the park improvements.
The town plans to spend about $12,000 to improve its newest greenway park addition — McCracken Corner park off Mooney Cove Road along Jonathan Creek. Improvements will include parking spots, a series of picnic pavilions and landscaping.
Lastly, the town budgeted $12,000 to add a new picnic shelter and seating amenities to the Town Hall Park.
Maggie Valley budget public hearing
• To be held at 6 p.m. Monday, June 13, at Town Hall
• Oral and written comments will also be accepted
• To see the complete budget proposal, visit www.townofmaggievalley.com or stop by town hall for a hard copy.