Property taxes increase first time in six years
The Town of Lake Lure's 2013-14 budget was adopted Tuesday night by Town Council members during a regular business meeting. There were no public comments regarding the $5,357,000 budget.
The totals include the general fund budget, the water and sewer and hydro-electric plant's budget.
The general fund budget is $4,245,396; water/sewer is $735,988 and the hydro-electric plant is $376,007.
The budget is balanced at a recommended tax rate of $0.276 per $100 of property value, which is a 3-cent increase over the tax rate in place since 2008, earmarked by Town Council for needed infrastructure improvements and capital expenditures.
The budget includes a 1.7 percent cost of living raise for the town's 33 full-time employees, six part-time and three reserve positions.
Employees will receive a 1.7% cost of living adjustment.
Town Manager Chris Braund said the establishment of the tax rate at $0.276 was based on the 2012 re-valuation of property in the county.
Residents' tax bills will reflect the rates in two ways — a 19.1 cent rate for municipal services and an 8.5 cent rate for fire protection services.
Braund said this should generate $2,368,916 in tax revenue on real, personal and utility property, with a 92.66 percent collection rate on motor vehicles and a 97.98 percent collection rate on property other than motor vehicles.
Real estate is valued at $843,753,050 and motor vehicles are estimated to be $11.3 million
The budget includes a 9 percent increase in water utility rates.
The proposed increase in water rates will enable water revenues to cover operating costs of the municipal water system.
In Lake Lure, the challenges of the geography, age of the infrastructure and small customer base make it hard to cover costs without setting unreasonably high rates, Braund said in his budget message.
Additional investments in utilities infrastructure are identified in the Comprehensive Plan as a needed strategy to support growth in key areas like schools, recreational and medical facilities.
However, the water and sewer revenues aren’t sufficient to fund these strategic investments in infrastructure. Several water and sewer projects are top priorities to be addressed using the Capital Reserve Fund and infrastructure loans.
Braund said 54 percent of the General Fund operating budget goes to police, fire and administration services.
The budget,for the first time ever,includes a section dedicated to direct investments to support economic development and enhancement of the community.
Investments are — $10,000 for Community Branding to begin the implementation of the community branding and promotion recommended in the 2012 Market Study and Branding report. The report was a joint initiative between Lake Lure and Chimney Rock Village. This will fund new signs, marketing and promotion materials.
An additional $10,000 will go to the Chamber of Commerce as it has been refocused, re-purposed and re-invigorated with a mission to facilitate economic development, business support and business recruitment. To succeed, the chamber will require a dynamic executive director and initial seed funding from community investors, Braund said.
With this investment,the Town is outsourcing some economic development activities and deliverables to the Chamber.
There is also $8,750 to the Mountain Area Health Education Center/Lake Lure Professional Park, to fulfill the community’s desire for additional medical services. The town is contributing $17,500 over two years as a match for a grant that supports the construction of a new medical facility near Ingles.
The MAHEC expects to begin operation in 2014.
The budget includes $592,988 in capital investments or special projects considered to be essential priorities.
"While this budget does not address every need, want, preference, desire, project, program or requested capital item, it will provide for the continuation of the municipal services currently provided and at the level expected by our residents, while ensuring that we are maintaining the assets we have and making significant strategic investments in the community," Braund said.