Siler City’s Commissioners discuss town's improving fiscal health

Posted 3/17/21

SILER CITY — The town’s board of commissioners reviewed markers of the town’s fiscal health — how its debt compares to similar municipalities and how its property valuations are trending — …

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Siler City’s Commissioners discuss town's improving fiscal health

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SILER CITY — The town’s board of commissioners reviewed markers of the town’s fiscal health — how its debt compares to similar municipalities and how its property valuations are trending — before discussing chicken festival plans and ordinance amendments in Monday night’s regular meeting.

Siler City has long battled financial woes. Low resident income and scant commerce have plagued the town’s spending capacity in recent decades and limited opportunities for improvement projects.

But the town is making a comeback and the numbers prove it.

In September, town staff, led by Town Manager Roy Lynch, contracted Davenport & Company to develop a capital improvements plan for Siler City’s general fund (where tax money is housed and organized). The Virginia advisory firm was tasked with plotting a 10-year plan to prioritize capital projects and identify potential funding.

On Monday, Ty Welford, a senior vice president at Davenport, presented the firm’s assessment of Siler City’s standing and prospects.

“We have access to some data,” he said, “... to try to give you an idea of how you stack up against other cities and towns, both across the country and also in North Carolina.”

Larger governments, such as Chatham County, are often scored by credit rating agencies with an indicator that represents their debt capacities and loan repayment potentials. The three major rating groups are Moody’s, S&P and Fitch.

Siler City has not had an official credit rating since the 1990s, but if it did, Welford said, the town would rank well.

“You stack up very favorably,” he said. Across three different key ratios, Siler City was “as good as you can get.”

That doesn’t mean the town is flush with cash and free to pursue every project it would like, though, Lynch pointed out. But Siler City is well poised to continue its emphasis on revitalization.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said.

Tax revals

North Carolina requires all counties to reappraise property at least every eight years. Counties can elect to perform revaluations on shorter cycles, however. Chatham adheres to a four-year schedule.

To perform the revaluation process — the results of which became official on Jan. 1 — the county contracted Vincent Valuation LLC, an Elizabeth City market research firm. The company’s owner, Ryan Vincent, attended Monday’s meeting to debrief the commissioners. (He’d earlier attended the Chatham County Board of Commissioners meeting; see report, page A3.)

“Reappraisal is a process in which all real property in the county is appraised at its current market value,” Vincent said. “... When we speak about real property that includes all the land and buildings that are permanently affixed to that land.” Areas zoned for residential, commercial, agricultural and industrial uses are all included.

The purpose of reappraisal is to distribute “the property tax burden evenly throughout the county,” Vincent said. The result is a “fair market value — what would a willing buyer and a willing seller pay for a piece of property.”

Tax rates, however, are separately decided by Chatham County taxing jurisdictions after appraised value is already fixed.

Vincent Valuations will mail reappraisal notices to every Chatham property owner on March 26, but the pamphlets are not be confused with tax assessments.

“When somebody calls us up after the notices go in the mail and asks us what their tax bill will be based on the reappraisal notice,” Vincent said, “we don’t know the answer to that, because the tax rates have not been set yet.”

The first tax bills impacted by 2021’s reappraisal will not come out until the summer.

While revaluation data has not yet been released, Vincent indicated that Chatham properties have generally increased in value, including those among the county’s western municipalities.

Other news

• Town Planner Jack Meadows presented the board with several potential amendments to the town’s unified development ordinance, which must be updated and approved by July. The commissioners voted in favor of all recommended adjustments.

Noteworthy amendments included new stipulation that accessory apartments may not comprise more than 50% of the gross floor area of a primary residence, or more than 1,000 square feet, whichever is smaller.

Also, satellite parking must be located within 600 feet of a public entrance to a building or the entryway to an associated property before a remote parking shuttle bus service is required.

The UDO previously limited satellite parking to within 400 feet.

• Siler City’s 2021 Chicken Festival — which was tentatively scheduled as a virtual event in May — probably won’t happen until fall, although the board did not vote to officialize any plans. Mayor Pro Tem Cindy Bray and others expressed apprehension with the virtual platform, preferring instead to delay the festival until in-person gatherings are safe.

Reporter D. Lars Dolder can be reached at and on Twitter @dldolder.


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