Canton budget goes all-in on recreation, infrastructure
The Town of Canton’s property tax rate hasn’t changed in almost two decades. This year, it looks to be headed down, but residents will still see slightly higher bills as a result of a countywide property revaluation that’s on average 24 percent higher.
“This area is growing. People are moving here, and commercial opportunities are increasing,” said Nick Scheuer, Canton’s assistant town manager.
Property tax is calculated by multiplying the rate, currently 58 cents per $100 in assessed value, by the assessed valuation. If the assessed value goes up but the rate stays the same — or even declines, as in this case — bills will increase as well.
“It’s representative of growth and the services that the town will need to provide for that growth,” Scheuer said.
On April 27, Scheuer presented a recommended budget to Mayor Zeb Smathers and the Canton Board of Aldermen/women that proposes a rate of 54 cents and largely reflects priorities set out in a January work session.
Those priorities place a good deal of importance on two high-profile recreation projects — improvements to the town’s Sorrells Street Park, and the new Chestnut Mountain project, a mountain biking facility currently under construction near the edge of town.
But Canton’s concerns also center on water, both as it comes into customers’ homes and as it leaves them; the town’s filter plant needs about $2 million in improvements, and a secondary water source that would insulate the town against drought are both on the horizon.
To that end, Canton’s all-funds budget could see an increase of more than 7 percent, based largely on a water and sewer fund increase of more than 14 percent.
Water and sewer bills are both slated for slight increases, even though rates did not increase during the Coronavirus Pandemic last year. Inside customers will see base rates increase from $15 to $17 per month, and rates for more than 3,000 gallons increasing from $3.88 to $4.20.
Inside sewer customers will see base bills move from $7.50 to $8.50, with rates for more than 3,000 gallons climbing from $1.94 to $2.10. Outside customers will see similar increases on both ends, but Canton remains one of the cheapest municipal providers of water and sewer services in the county.
Those increases will provide $280,000 in additional revenue, every cent of which will be needed for the $300,000 in filter plant improvements on the way.
Although the town expects to receive an initial $630,000 in funds from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, much of that will go to a badly-needed new fire truck.
One sign that the town — and society as a whole — are moving toward a post-pandemic mindset is that aldermen unanimously approved moving forward with this year’s Labor Day Festival. For more than 110 years, the town’s Labor Day fest has been a can’t-miss event not just in the county, but in the region as a whole.
Town Clerk Lisa Stinnett can take a lot of credit for the past successes of the event, but this year offered a word of caution because of the tender state of some businesses just now emerging from the pandemic economy.
“I do have concerns with sponsorships,” Stinnett told the board, advising them that a scaled-down festival was an option. “I think your sponsorships are going to be hurt because of COVID-19.”
Ultimately, the board decided to roll the dice and move forward with planning the fest. Last year’s acts, Diamond Rio and Doyle Lawson, are both slated to return after the town cancelled last year’s performances.
“We’ve worked really hard to get it to the level it’s at and you don’t want to fall back,” she said.