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Brown’s budgets warrant deeper look

haywoodAfter several public opportunities for comment resulted in sparse discussion, Waynesville’s 2016-17 budget passed June 14 with the largest tax hike of Mayor Gavin Brown’s tenure.

This year’s $29.7 million budget isn’t much different from last year’s $29.8 million budget, with the exception of a nearly-10 percent hike in property tax rates to fund the hiring of eight additional firefighters. 

“I think it’s great,” said Interim Town Manager Mike Morgan. “It meets the basic core needs of the town, and yet it provides services that we need — police, fire, public works. It’s a good budget for the community.”

The proposed hike was largely non-controversial, even though it brings Waynesville’s rate from 43.82 cents to 48.57 cents per $100 in assessed value. Every cent of the tax rate is worth $104,740 in revenue to the city.

What this means for taxpayers is that on a $200,000 property, owners will now pay $971.40 each year, up from $876.40, a difference of about $7.92 per month. 

To put that into context, this is the ninth budget Brown has affixed his hand to as Waynesville’s mayor, the first being on June 24, 2008. When he took office during the Great Recession, the town’s tax rate was 40 cents per $100, and the proposed 2008-09 budget stood at $26.28 million.

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Meanwhile, the Consumer Price Index, which is a generalized benchmark of the cost of goods and services from year to year, has risen 11.6 percent over the same span.

Since that same time, Waynesville’s budget has grown 13 percent; streets and sanitation spending has increased 16 percent, police spending has increased 43 percent and fire department spending (including this year’s spike) has increased 110 percent.

On the revenue side, property taxes have long been the town’s single largest source of income, and the cents per hundred rate has risen 21 percent over that same time period. This year, projected revenue from these taxes grew to $5.54 million, up from $4.2 million in 2008, an 18-percent increase.

All these numbers seem to suggest that despite Waynesville’s spending outpacing the CPI, even in the face of one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression, Brown and the town boards he’s served with have kept the budget relatively stable while committing to substantial increases in police, fire and public works spending. 

Adjusted for CPI growth, 2008’s budget today would be $29.3 million versus 2016-17’s $29.7 million, an increase of 1 percent. 

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