Siler City taxes, utility rates unlikely to change in 2022

Posted 5/19/21

SILER CITY — Siler City’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2022 recommends keeping taxes and utilities at their current rates while increasing town spending by 12%.

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Siler City taxes, utility rates unlikely to change in 2022

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SILER CITY — Siler City’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2022 recommends keeping taxes and utilities at their current rates while increasing town spending by 12%.

Total expenditures are proposed to increase from about $15.74 million in the town’s current budget to more than $17.67 million for fiscal year 2022. Much of the difference would fund new town staff salaries and raises for current staff members.

The numbers reflect a more stable economic position than town leaders anticipated, according to Town Manager Roy Lynch. Following federally mandated moratoriums on utility fee collections and temporary closures of most businesses, he and the board of commissioners braced for the prospect of a crippling deficit. But as the country emerged from the pandemic’s worst months, Siler City’s financial standing was healthier than some predicted.

“Water and sewer revenues have proven to be resilient throughout the last year even with all the anticipated reductions due to the closing of some of the local businesses and restaurants,” Lynch said during a presentation at the board’s regular meeting Monday. “This is evident through the actual performance and projections for year end. Once the mandates were lifted on the disconnects and late fees, we saw an increase in payments bringing our receivables back in line with the previous year.”

The better-than-expected year end balance will permit Siler City to proceed with development and expansion objectives that were stagnated by the pandemic.

“The goals and objectives of fiscal year ‘22 are indistinguishable from last year,” Lynch said, “with only a few minor changes.” They include funding “enhanced technology integration” into town operations, funding “increases for continued professional development and training” and recognizing “employee performance and service.”

Of 12 new positions town departments requested, eight are accounted for in the proposed budget. Half would go to the police department (three police officers and an evidence technician), which alone stands to receive more than $813,000.

The other four positions include a street maintenance worker, a water treatment plant operator, a water sewer utility maintenance worker and a Planner I employee in the planning department.

In its current iteration, the budget does not include any appropriations for non-profits, but Lynch suggested the board may use federal grant money from the American Rescue Plan to subsidize such organizations. The town expects $2.41 million in ARP funding, but town staff and the commissioners have not yet discussed a potential spending plan.

“We will review the guidelines of the ARP funding once that is received,” Lynch said, “and we will bring these requests back to the board.”

Unlike towns such as Pittsboro, which follow a traditional budgeting structure dividing revenue and expenditures between a general fund and an enterprise fund, Siler City organizes money between four funds. Besides general and enterprise (or water sewer) funds, the town has a Powell Bill fund and License Plate Agency fund. A complete breakdown of projected spending from within each fund is available on the Town of Siler City website, silercity.org.

“This budget was prepared during unprecedented times due to the global pandemic,” Lynch said. “We continue to work through it toward recovery and have seen positive results. We are still cognizant of the effects concerning COVID-19, and the uncertainties ... but we are optimistic about the coming year.”

The board of commissioners will host a public hearing for the proposed budget on June 21 after which they will vote to adopt or budget or send it back to staff for revisions. The new fiscal year begins on July 1.

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

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