In a 4-2 vote, the Mooresville Board of Commissioners adopted the proposed $112.9 million 2019-20 fiscal year budget Monday.
Commissioners Lisa Qualls and Eddie Dingler voted against adopting the budget, explaining afterward they supported lowering the property tax rate from its current 58 cents per $100 valuation by two cents to give $1.6 million back to taxpayers and businesses.
Commissioners Barbara Whittington, Gary West, Bobby Compton and Thurman Houston supported adopting the budget.
Interim Town Manager Ryan Rase’s proposed budget keeps the property tax rate at 58 cents per $100 of valuation and does not include any increases in monthly water or sewer rates. The newly-adopted operating budget is up 18.8 percent from last year’s fiscal budget of $95.1 million, said Interim Town Manager Ryan Rase.
Dingler said Monday he liked certain aspects of the budget, including the purchase of a new fire truck and road paving funding, but felt the town could make some cuts to the budget itself to find the $1.6 million to give back to the public. “I do believe there is some room,” Dingler said.
“I will be voting no on this budget because I feel we could have given something back to not only our residents but our business community,” said Qualls.
The average home in Mooresville is valued at $207,500, said town chief financial officer Deborah Hockett. Reducing the property tax by one cent would reduce the annual property bill by $20.75 and a two-cent decrease would result in a $41.50 reduction in annual property taxes, Hockett said.
Whittington said she felt she could support the budget’s tax rate at 58 cents per $100 valuation because most people wouldn’t think twice about spending $20-$40 at a restaurant. Whittington also said she hopes the town wouldn’t be dealing with Continuum next year if the town-owned business is sold. “That will help tremendously,” Whittington said.
West said he didn’t support reducing the property tax because he has seen other municipalities do the same and later have to raise the rate back up. This money is also funding the requests of what the public has asked for, including road improvements and sidewalks, Houston and West both said.
New budget expenditures not included in last year’s fiscal budget total about $6 million, matching the amount of additional revenue brought in by last year’s county-wide revaluation of all land and buildings.
Two million dollars of that $6 million is committed funding - or additional obligations the town has - in the form of principal and interest payments for 2019 general obligation bond series; an increase in the town’s annual contribution to telecommunications business Continuum; an increase in employee retirement rates; and an increase in the cost to Iredell County for the billing and collecting of the town’s property taxes, Rase said.
Another $1.5 million of this $6 million in new expenditures is board-directed funding requests from February’s Board of Commissioners retreat, Rase said. Those include the design of the town’s new police headquarters; the design of fire station number six, the design of the fire training center and the design of the town’s fleet services expansion.
Finally, another proposed $2.2 million of expenditures not included in last year’s fiscal budget include, among other things, $740,000 for a new fire engine; a $622,096 resurfacing program for six miles of roads; and a $200,000 fiber-optic expansion should the town be able to sell its ownership of Continuum.
Two Mooresville residents spoke at the public hearing prior to the board’s vote on the proposed budget. Larry Gregory said his property taxes have increased $1,010 since 2008. He said the town owes residents $40 million because of its involvement in purchasing Continuum which the town has had to contribute millions of dollars to each year in debt payments. The town continues to encourage growth which in turn creates congestion and infrastructure needs.
“My family has to make life changes just to live here,” said Gregory.
Richard Beck wanted to know why the town needed a new police department and why the town budget had increased more than 18 percent from last year. He recommended the town move to zero-based budgeting where all expenses are justified and approved for each new period. “Your job is not an 18 percent year-over-year budget change,” Beck told the board. “You got a windfall from the county because of revaluation. Did you thank the county Santa Claus? “