Southern Pines Council Approves Budget
Given recent economic conditions, Southern Pines Town Councilman Fred Walden is “amazed” that the property tax rate has remained the same for three consecutive years.
The council on Tuesday night approved a $14.8 million budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, which starts July 1. It retains a property tax rate of 35 cents per $100 of valuation.
“The staff did a great job of putting this budget together,” Walden said. “I have been amazed that we have able to hold the line on taxes.”
But he joined the chorus of other town officials who have warned that services may have to be cut or taxes raised in the near future if the town’s tax base remains stagnant.
“Looking at it, if things don’t change for the positive next year, I don’t know whether we (will be able to) say (the same) about next year’s budget,” Walden said.
Town Manager Reagan Parsons credited his staff and council members for developing and approving a budget that doesn’t scrimp on services to taxpayers.
“I certainly appreciated all their work,” Parsons said. “We are very relieved to be able to provide the same level of services without any significant increases in tax rates.”
The budget, which was unveiled in April at the council’s annual retreat, underwent few changes in the interim. When the new fiscal year begins, the town will have an available fund balance of $500,631.
Parsons added that the budget appears to be stable.
“I don’t anticipate … having to come back before this council to make an amendment based on the state budget,” he said.
Among other things, the new budget includes funds to implement the first phase of the town’s bike transportation plan, to develop a master plan for the Downtown Southern Pines Park and to hire a consultant to overhaul the town’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO).
The UDO, which has been tweaked hundreds of times since it was adopted in 1989, came under intense scrutiny during public hearings earlier this year for the proposed Tyler’s Ridge at Sandhills mixed-use development.
Developer Jim O’Malley withdrew his initial application in April after he determined that it did not comply with the UDO. O’Malley submitted a new application last month that he believes meets all of the ordinance’s requirements.
Parsons mentioned a few small gains in the upcoming budget. Although it did not include a merit program for town employees, it allowed for personnel numbers to remain consistent and provides a 2 percent cost-of-living increase. It also allots money to carry out proposals in the town’s Comprehensive Long Range Plan adopted last year.
“I’m really, really, really proud of the budget,” Mayor Mike Haney said. “The things that we are able to include and accomplish for this town speaks volumes for our citizens and for the staff.”
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