MATTHEWS – Town leaders started next fiscal year’s budget process May 13 when they were presented a proposed budget that has an almost 3% increase from the current amended budget.
Town Manager Hazen Blodgett presented the Matthews Board of Commissioners and Mayor Paul Bailey a $25,640,229 2019-20 budget that is up from the current amended budget of $24,883,772, an increase of $756,757.
The proposed tax rate is $0.28 per $100 valuation, which is a drop from the current $0.355 tax rate. The revenue-neutral tax rate, which would be the rate for the town to take in the same amount of money next year as did this year while factoring in average growth since the previous revaluation, would be $0.2613.
That means the proposed budget is recommending a 1.87-cent property tax increase to fund increased operational costs.
“That will raise about $965,000,” Blodgett said of the increase.
The county’s recent revaluation increased property values in Matthews by an average of 38.3%. Before the reval, property values in Matthews were $3.5 billion, and they are now valued at $4.9 billion. Property taxes account for 55% of revenues while sales taxes account for 14%. State shared revenues and permits and fees account for the rest of the revenue.
The board will have another budget workshop at 6 p.m. May 20. A public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. May 28.
The addition of four police department personnel, which includes a second vice-narcotics detective and a lieutenant, and fully funding the fire department and EMS switch to a 24-hour staffing model are the biggest drivers of the budget increase. The four new police positions will cost $231,000 while fully funding the fire department staffing model is $250,000.
The police department’s proposed budget is $7 million, up from the current $6.9 million budget. In addition to the lieutenant and the vice detective, the department will add a crime analyst position and a senior administrative specialist that will be a victim-witness coordinator.
The department will also get seven new Ford Explorers as part of routine fleet replacement. Operating and capital expenses both are down from the current fiscal year. The town has applied for a state grant to fund four patrol officers positions, and Blodgett said the town should find out next month if Matthews is awarded the grant.
“We have one vice detective working solely on town issues,” Police Chief Clark Pennington said. “We are thinking adding this vice-narcotics officer is a necessity for officer safety and to make sure we are working the tips that we use.’’
The proposed fire department and EMS budget is almost $3 million, up from the current $2.6 million. It includes fully funding 24 firefighter positions as part of the 24-hour staffing model, an incentive pay program that funds four volunteer firefighters per shift and $80,000 for new vehicles.
Blodgett told the board that retirement contributions, solid waste fees and insurance costs have increased from the current fiscal year to the tune of $394,250.
“There are interesting challenges in this year’s budget,” Blodgett said. “Insurance has gone up as we all expect.”
The proposed budget also has a 3% merit pool increase for town employees, and public works will get a part-time worker to assist with right-of-way maintenance. There is also money in the proposed budget for adding a dog park at Purser-Hulsey Park and $482,000 for a parking lot on East Charles Street.