Pilot Mountain sets tax rate at 57 cents

A full room greets Pilot Mountain commissioners at Monday’s public hearing for the budget.

PILOT MOUNTAIN — The Board of Commissioners meeting for Pilot Mountain on Monday was a full house. The meeting included a public hearing regarding the fiscal year 2015-2016 annual budget, and many concerned citizens shared their thoughts.

Mayor Dwight Atkins began by sharing some background information for the public. At a budget workshop held earlier the same day, the board voted to fund the library at the requested amount of $34,000, increase the solid waste fee to $7 per month, and approve the proposed water/sewer rate schedule. In addition, the finance officer position was removed from the budget, and the police department budget was reduced by 2.5 percent.

“What has passed today will be a part of the budget,” explained Atkins.

There was praise for the decision to fund the library. “The library is about more than checking out books. Not everyone has computers and internet. People go down there to fill out job applications,” said Frank Nichols.

The public addressed concerns about the town’s financial standing. “Like any business, the town cannot sell services for less than their cost,” said Donald Mueller.

The solid waste collection is costing the town more than it’s charging customers for the service, even at the new approved rate of $7.

There were also comments regarding how increases will affect some residents. Lavonda Nelson expressed worry about the increased water rates, sharing that she knows a lady who “uses her bath water twice because of her water bill.”

John Bullington suggested alternative solutions to lack of funding. “Is there any way we could use community service workers?”

The response was that the town manager has looked into that option, but there have not been workers available.

Mike Jessup spoke against the removal of the finance officer position. “The state requires us to have one, and we don’t have one. We are in violation.”

The cuts to the police department were a concern for many. “I don’t understand how you would ever want to cut the police budget,” said Audra Lowe. “Don’t take money from the people that are going to keep us safe.”

The board voted to approve the 2015-16 fee schedule. The only change is an increase of the solid waste rate to $7 per month. The commissioners also set the tax rate at 57 cents for the coming year. That is a 3-cent increase. Both votes were 3-1 with Commissioner Kim Quinn opposing.

In a budget workshop earlier in the day, Quinn had pushed for a higher solid waste rate and tax rate to cover the town’s costs.

The commissioners thanked the public for all their input. “I appreciate everyone coming out and voicing your opinions,” said Commissioner Gary Bell.

The final vote on the budget will take place at a meeting on June 29 at 7 p.m.

Other business

A new funding opportunity has been presented for the needed repairs to Depot Street.

“We have an opportunity to get this fixed that we did not think we would have,” said Atkins.

A resolution requesting assistance from the NC Department of Transportation to repair and reopen Depot Street was passed unanimously.

“It is my understanding that this work could happen very soon,” said Commissioner Cordie Armstrong.

The DOT funding of the Depot Street repairs would make the stream restoration and sewer issues associated with the greenway a project separate from the road work.

“In regards to the greenway, if we are accepted, there will be another meeting for you to voice your opinion,” said Quinn.

A resolution was passed in support of Governor Pat McCrory’s Connect NC Bond proposal. “The resolution is saying to put the bond on the ballot to give voters the option to decide,” said Quinn.

The $3 billion bond would fund highway and infrastructure projects throughout the state.

The commissioners were polled to determine if they would accept their compensation during the coming year. Commissioners Linda Needham, Bell, Armstrong and Quinn accepted the compensation, while Atkins refused any payment.

Marshall Atkins has given notice that he will resign from the ABC Board effective Aug. 1. Billy Pell has been recommended to fill the vacancy. Other interested parties may submit an application to Town Hall or the ABC store before the July meeting.

Debbie Ervin and Stephanie Johnson were recommended to fill positions on the Library Board by Head Librarian Anna Nichols and the Library Board. Both appointments were approved by the board of commissioners.

The commissioners are considering changes to the proposed whistleblower and procurement policies. Required for grant funding, both policies were tabled for further research.

Pilot Knob Fire Chief Derrick Manuel reported higher-than-usual call volume with 36 calls in the month of May.

“Our contract company has been doing the hydrant flows,” said Manuel. Forty fire hydrants remain in the annual hydrant flow testing.

Public works will begin filling pot holes in town during the coming week.

“We all want the best for this town. We have these arguments because we love the town and people in it,” said Atkins of the budget discussions as the board moved to adjourn.

Diane Blakemore may be reached at 336-368-2222 or on twitter @PilotReporter.

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