Aberdeen Town officials will consider a two-cent property tax increase during a special called meeting on Tuesday evening.
Town Manager Paul Sabiston recommended the increase in his FY 2019-2010 Budget to meet the town’s ongoing debt obligations, while also providing funding for necessary capital expenditures and maintaining employee benefits similar to current levels.
Sabiston had initially planned to request a three-cent tax increase but, after receiving feedback from town leaders, tightened his figures to accommodate a more modest two-cent tax increase. However, he anticipates an additional tax increase will be required next year to keep up with increased debt, particularly with construction getting underway on the new police station building.
As recommended, the budget includes a .49 cent tax rate per $100. The base rates for water and sewer remain unchanged, but the volume rates would increase 3 percent to accommodate planned capital improvements. Residential garbage collection rates are also set to increase from $21 to $26 on a bi-monthly billing schedule.
This year Moore County conducted a revaluation which resulted in an overall increase in property values for Aberdeen. In his budget message, Sabiston said based on the county’s revaluation a tax neutral rate would be approximately 42 cents.
But steady growth -- which has nearly doubled Aberdeen’s population since 2000 -- has required an expansion of municipal services and equipment, including new garbage trucks and fire trucks.
In March Sabiston advised town leaders that a tax hike would be required, despite the expected higher tax valuation.
This time next year the town could be in a position to purchase the vacated Aberdeen Elementary school property on U.S. 1, after the new campus on N.C. 5 opens. This will provide a unique real estate opportunity for the town with its sports fields, gymnasium and auditorium that could all be repurposed for recreational use. The school cafeteria’s commercial kitchen and classrooms could be reimagined as a public-private partnership. In previous discussions, the Town Board has estimated the cost to acquire the school at around $1.2 million.
“It will be a big opportunity year, but we must be wise in how we do this. There are times when it might be the right time to borrow some funds,” Sabiston said during a daylong budget retreat with town commissioners earlier this year.
In 2015, the Aberdeen Town Board developed a mission statement and strategic plan that was updated in 2018. The plan focuses on the town’s efforts to encourage growth and development while balancing the quality of life for residents.
The proposed $13.4 million general fund budget includes funding for water and sewer line repairs ($215,000), installation of phase two of the water and sewer AMR program ($290,000), a new garbage truck ($165,000), sidewalk improvements to Johnson Street ($54,000), repairing drainage issues at Lake Park and Ray’s Mill Park ($83,000), continuing improvements to the downtown area ($65,000), rebuilding the Lake Dam using FEMA funds ($240,000), and repairs to the town-owned depot and wholesale grocery buildings ($42,500).
The proposed $3.6 million water and sewer fund budget is 6 percent lower than the current fiscal year. Sabiston said the decrease is driven primarily by lowered costs for the planned new gravity feed sewer line being constructed in coordination with Moore County Schools for the new school site on N.C. 5. Originally projected at $450,000, the actual costs will be closer to $380,000.
In a prepared statement to the board, Sabiston said the FY 2019-2010 budget addresses many of the town’s growth issues and “continues to aggressively move forward existing improvement plans in the planning department,” following a recent update of the Comprehensive Plan this past year and anticipated update of the Unified Development Ordinance this year.
The Aberdeen Town Board special called meeting will be held May 28, at 6 p.m., at the Robert N. Page Municipal Building in downtown Aberdeen.