Funding for the design of a new City Hall, multiple transportation projects and the Albemarle waterline project are a few big-ticket items in Concord’s 2014 budget, which will take effect in July.The citywide budget, adopted earlier this month, is roughly $213.4 million for all funds, including utilities and special revenue funds. The general fund – which includes funding for city personnel, operational expenses, capital improvements and debt service – is roughly $68.9 million. In 2008, the tax rate was just under 45 cents per $100 property valuation. It was lowered to 42 cents in 2009 and stayed at that rate until 2013, when it was raised to 48 cents. The current rate will remain unchanged.The property-tax rate is among the lowest third of full-service North Carolina municipalities with populations greater than 35,000, and the lowest of those that do not charge solid waste and recycling fees. “To have a 48 cent tax rate and have all your solid waste picked up is pretty significance,” said Concord City Manager Brian Hiatt. “We provide one of the highest level of solid waste services and we benchmark with a lot of other cities.”The general fund was $59.9 million in 2013. It was 70.9 million in fiscal 2010, $69.6 million in 2011 and $77.1 million in 2012.About $13 million of fiscal 2014’s general fund is expected from sales tax. The rest comes from other taxes, various fees, intergovernmental revenues and investment earnings.Hiatt, the city manager since 1998, said the budget is improving. The property tax base is growing and revenue from sales tax is nearing its pre-recession peak of $13.5 million. The lowest amount generated from sales tax was $10.6 million in 2011. Concord takes about 22 percent of sales tax, while Cabarrus County gets about 67 percent. Bids on the Albemarle waterline project are expected to get approval in July, said Hiatt, with construction starting in August. When complete, the waterline will supply 6 million gallons per day to Concord, and the improvements will allow Mount Pleasant to tap the city’s supply. The project, decades in the making, also will help supplement the city’s stretched resources, especially during drought. The fiscal 2014 budget has no utility increases but a water-rate increase is likely next year to help fund the waterline project.“This is something that not only is going to provide relief for (residents), it will provide for our future in terms of economic development,” Hiatt said.The upgrade comes several years after the city lost its largest water and sewer customer. Since the Phillip Morris plant closed, the city has lost $4.1 million in tax revenue, but rate increases helped soften the deficit.“At the same time we had this downturn in the economy, we also lost revenues from Phillip Morris on the utilities side and the property tax side, so that’s been something we’ve had to adapt to over the last five years,” said Hiatt.Some of the larger transportation-improvement projects include upgrades to Poplar Tent Road and U.S. 29, U.S. 601 and N.C. 3/Branchview Drive; the widening of Derita Road; the Cabarrus Avenue bridge replacement; the George W. Liles Parkway extension; parts of the Interstate 85 widening project; sidewalks at the Poplar Tent and N.C. 73 interchanges; and the Weddington Road NW extension.The new City Hall will be designed this year and is expected to be built near the police headquarters on Cabarrus Avenue. This project has been on the city’s radar for more than 15 years, said Hiatt. The parking deck and police headquarters are the other parts in the three-phase development project.Because city council established a capital reserve fund, development projects continued even during the recession. The fund currently has about $16 million in it. “Some of those years, when our operating budgets were down, we were still doing capital projects, which is good because now we’re not as behind,” Hiatt said. “The other thing that reserve fund did was enable us to not incur debt.”But since 2010, the city has eliminated 24 full-time and four part-time positions worth upwards of $1 million. There are 16 vacant positions worth roughly $700,000 that the council has voted not to fill.Tax reform measures in the House and Senate could potentially take taxable areas away from city, said Hiatt. This year’s budget will lose about $130,000 in revenue. Over the next four years, more cuts could be phased in to eliminate about $2 million per year, said Hiatt, which could force the city to raise taxes again.
Friday, Jun. 21, 2013
Concord adopts 2014 budget
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