Southern Pines ended the long budget-planning process Tuesday as the Town Council unanimously approved its $24.7 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year starting on July 1.

The budget keeps property taxes the same as they have been for the last six years, 40 cents per $100 valuation. Town Manager Reagan Parsons said the town has been able to accomplish this by having consistently high property values.

Residents will still have to pay more for utilities and will generally face higher fees for town services. The trash and recycling service fees, for instance, will jump from $12 to $16.75 for residents.

Property owners in Southern Pines can also expect to see a 5 percent increase in their monthly water and sewer bills, which represents a $3.49 monthly hike. The increase, Parsons said, is so the town can keep up with its capital investment projects and operational expenses.

Fees for recreation and communal facilities also increased overall, especially for non-residents using the town’s services.

In general, the town is doing well financially. The budget includes $266,025 in leftover funds, excluding the roughly $6 million set aside for the rainy day fund. That’s three months worth of operating expenses, a measure the town has historically cast aside in case of emergency.

Also included in the budget are a variety of capital projects the town is working on. Highlights include rehabilitating the dam in Reservoir Park and paving the parking lot at the Douglass Community Center and improving the town’s roads and sidewalks.

The town is also working on a number of sewer and water projects that are reflected in the budget. Nearly $1.1 million will be transferred to capital funds to repair and rehabilitate the water and sewer system, including a near-term water line project on West Pennsylvania Avenue and Pee Dee Road. Southern Pines will also allocate over $665,000 toward improvements at the water treatment plant.

Assistant Town Manager Jessica Roth said the new Whitehall master-planning process — set to begin this summer — is also included in the budget. Located off Pee Dee Road, the mostly undeveloped property abuts the town’s existing Reservoir Park and nearly doubles the size of this popular recreation destination.

The new budget accounts for an update to the town’s Comprehensive Long Range Plan. The CLRP guides future development and is often used as the basis for the town’s decisions on certain developments. A wave of growth in recent years, coupled with increasing concerns from residents about the character of the town, have inspired the council to begin revamping the plan. It’s expected to take about a year to complete.

The budget also prioritizes public safety, with $450,000 for public safety needs, including the replacement of six police vehicles and two fire vehicles as well as fire and rescue extrication equipment.

Fire Chief Mike Cameron has been promoted to the role of assistant town manager, though he will continue to serve in his capacity as fire chief.

Residents had hoped the American Rescue Plan Act funds would be discussed at the meeting. However, there was little discussion: Parsons said the town has not yet tapped into its American Rescue Plan Act funds, totaling $4.6 million, and the budget doesn't address it. The plan is to take the “standard allowance” for those funds, which Parsons said would allow the town to worry less about the federal reporting process and use the funds for other projects.

It's unclear yet what the town will use the ARPA funds for, but Parsons said he expects for staff to bring the town project ideas in the fall. Residents, particularly of West Southern Pines, have hoped the money would be used to help the low-income people and minority communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the financial and emotional hardships of the pandemic.

In other action Tuesday, the Town Council:

*Passed amendments to the town’s zoning ordinances. The amendments change the process by which the large apartment complexes and condominiums can get approved. Instead of acquiring a special use permit, developers aiming to build more than 10 multi-family dwelling units will have to go through a planned development process. The change is designed to give the council more leeway to approve/deny large-scale residential development in Southern Pines.

* Created a Municipal Service District of about 100 acres acres between 15-501 and West Morganton Road.

* Approved the first phase of development for the Ace Hardware expansion on Airport Road.

* Approved a special use permit for the Murray Hill Pines Apartments, a new complex behind the coming Target shopping center in Morganton Park South.

Contact Evey Weisblat at (910) 693-2474 or evey@thepilot.com.

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(2) comments

Kent Misegades

Rope-a-dope. Taxes flat but fees are way up. Fees are just another word for taxes. Best is to privatize everything and end the perennial money-losing government recycling rat holes. With hyperinflation well on its way expect property values to plummet and tax revenue along with it. Best to tighten belts now and compare town employee head count and salaries to other communities.

Karen Tussing

Fortunately Kent is not a resident of Southern Pines.

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