Maggie Valley begins budget talks
Maggie Valley town officials are cautiously optimistic about the coming budget year after preliminary reports show the pandemic did not have the devastating financial effect many had originally feared.
At a March 8 budget retreat, the Maggie Valley Board of Aldermen and staff were upbeat about the 2021-22 budget. The actual budget for the upcoming fiscal year does not have to be approved until June 30.
Town Manager Nathan Clark and aldermen discussed some projects that are three to five years down the line as they look to future development in the town. For Maggie Valley, much of that economic development rests on the shoulders of its natural beauty. Almost all of the major projects planned for the 2021-22 budget and beyond relate in some capacity to beautification, tourism and ecological development. These are projects that in turn increase property values in Maggie.
Clark recommended a tax rate decrease from the current 43 cents per $100 of property value. He recommended a rate between 39 and 41 cents, which he says make sense based on the current projections about about the county’s revaluation of real property. Most residents can expect increases in their home values, meaning the town can decrease tax rates and still collect the same amount of revenue.
The improvement project approved for Soco Road in March 2020 was halted shortly after town approval due to DOT budget complexities during the pandemic. According to Clark, all DOT projects have since been given permission to resume and the town is meeting with NCDOT and American Engineering to review designs for the project. Clark said it could be complete in one to two years.
The town has been working for several years to renovate the Town Hall building. During the pandemic year those improvements were halted, partly for budget concerns and partly because there were less visitors to the building. Improvements could begin again this year and take place over the next several years with work on the entrance, cafeteria and common area.
Town hall may also become home to a new veteran’s memorial statue and a public works storage building. The memorial statue was mentioned by every alderman as they listed their budget priorities. Possible designs were discussed but the memorial statue will likely be placed outside of town hall and include a plaque commemorating veterans’ service.
A storage building will be constructed and used to store town decorations in the off season, including the new, extra-large “Ski Town” sign. The town is leaning toward putting the storage building on town hall property to minimize costs for the needed space. The cost is estimated at $125,600.
Even more upgrades are likely in store for the festival grounds. Clark and aldermen discussed the importance of the festival grounds for driving economic development by bringing large scale events to Maggie Valley, like the drive-in concert series that was able to continue even through pandemic restrictions. The town discussed improvements to the pavilion at the festival grounds, which was constructed in 1995. The Wi-Fi network, installed in 2013, is also in need of an upgrade. According to Clark, vendors at the festival grounds have Wi-Fi connectivity issues regularly.
Another project likely to take off in 2021 is the waterfall park project proposed for the Old Still Road waterfall property. In 2020 the town hired Mosaic Civic Studio to create conceptual development plans for a waterfall park on the property. Because the 8-acre property the town owns is situated in a residential area, public feedback has been mixed.
Mayor Mike Eveland said that regardless of what decision the town comes to, it will move forward this year. The town has owned the property since the early 2000s and has not developed it in that time. Eveland said the town will either decide to develop the property or sell it.
Several budget items are likely in store for the Maggie Valley Police Department. The most pressing of which may be the policy and procedure manual updates. Due to changing attitudes around policing and best practices, local police departments are having to review their policies. Maggie Valley Police Chief Russ Gilliland said the department will need up to $10,000 to pay a police department specialty law firm to help review policies and procedures.
The police department is also looking to purchase another dog to enhance the K-9 unit so that there can be a dog on every shift, a new police department server, two new police cars, and in-car camera systems.
Gilliland noted that there is more legislation coming down the line that, if passed, would further change the logistics and legalities of policing. If that legislation becomes law, it could mean more police budget necessities.