Canton looks to maintain property tax rate
The Town of Canton’s preliminary proposed budget shows an increase over last year from $8.7 million to more than $9.2 million. Most of that is from monies split between budget years and slight increases in some spending categories, but Mayor Zeb Smathers was eager to answer the question on the minds of most.
“There’s no tax increase,” said Smathers. “My belief is, following something I set out years ago, it that there are a lot of ways to hold the line on expenses, and Jason [Burrell, the town manager] has done a good job in keeping personnel costs steady.”
In short, it’s business as usual in Canton.
One of the bright spots is, as Smathers said, personnel cost; gone is the full-time pool operator who spent half the year not doing a whole lot, replaced by a part-timer in the summer.
It’s also the first year since the town’s new pool was constructed that it will be open for a full year and thus generate a full year’s revenue.
And that’ll be helpful — if approved in its present form, the budget calls for general fund expenditures to climb from $6.19 million last year to just over $6.44 million this year.
Within that category, general government expenditures will increase by about $50,000 to $1.1 million, public safety will climb from $2.52 million to $2.55 million and public works from $1.92 million to $2.24 million.
That general government spending also includes a substantial increase in funding to the town’s museum, from $32,670 to $39,720.
“Caroline [Ponton, the museum’s director] and her volunteers have shown an increase in programming and ideas, threading our historic worth throughout the town,” said Smathers. “This is one of those cases where she not only requested extra funding, she earned it.”
Indeed, three volunteers at the museum — Jimmy Clontz, Nathan Ingle and Edie Burnette — were recognized for their contributions to the museum’s success at the town’s May 9 board meeting.
In addition to the general fund, the town also operates two other funds, a water and sewer fund and a recreation fund. Expenditures in the water and sewer fund are flat or up only slightly, from $2.38 million to $2.39 million, but recreation funding is up from $755,000 to $861,000, in anticipation of fundamental changes that could affect how the county and its municipalities handle recreation programming.
Canton has been at the forefront of economic development victories in Haywood county over the past few years, which is beginning to reshape the town’s once downtrodden downtown retail district.
A number of new businesses are rumored to be opening in the coming year, but other have already made an impact, according to Smathers.
“It’s not just a new revenue stream for that business, but it also helps to encourage people to go visit other businesses,” he said. “A rising tide lifts all ships.”
A critical part of that downtown scene that still isn’t being utilized in a cost-effective manner is the town’s underutilized Colonial Theater.
Built in 1932, the downtown movie house that once showed first-run Hollywood movies like “The Wizard of Oz” and “Dumbo” has been operating at a huge loss for years, and was the subject of a planning retreat, shortly after Smathers first took office, in 2018.
This year, the budget includes a proposal the town is weighing from a local marketing company Moxxie Marketing to help spread the word as well as book acts.
“For a while now, our aldermen and alderwomen have been pushing us into marketing, especially Alderwoman Kristina Smith,” said Smathers. Smith works in Marketing for the Biltmore companies in Asheville.
Smathers explained that the town’s current staff wasn’t exactly set up to devote substantial time to marketing, and that outsourcing the duties would not only help keep personnel costs down, but also perhaps help turn a profit on the proposed $20,000 deal with increased utilization and bookings.
The town of Canton’s ad valorem tax rate has remained consistent at 58 cents per $100 in assessed property value since being raised from 53 cents for the 2007-08 fiscal year. Prior to that, the rate had been 61 cents.
The Town of Canton’s 2019-20 fiscal year budget will be presented to the public by Town Manager Jason Burrell during the regular board of aldermen/women meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 23. After that, the meeting will be opened to public comment.
As that public comment session concludes, the board can either decide to adopt the budget, or schedule another public presentation of the budget sometime in June, which would also offer the opportunity for public comment.
Anyone who wishes to obtain a copy of the proposed budget can contact Town Clerk Lisa Stinnett at 828.648.2363, or find a copy online at the town’s website, www.cantonnc.com. State law requires municipal budgets to be passed no later than July 1 each year.