City budget: Property values estimated to be up 10%

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 25, 2008

FRANKLIN—A proposed Franklin city budget of $52.4 million for fiscal 2009 is about 4.8 percent more than this year’s budget.

The real estate tax rate would drop from 90 cents to 85 cents per $100 of assessed value, but property owners’ tax bills could still rise due to a projected 10 percent increase in property assessments that includes new construction.

“We are in a reassessment year,” said City Manager Bucky Taylor. “Once that is complete, we have to set the tax rate. What we have now is an estimate, but it will probably be a little higher.”

That estimate, according to Finance Director Andy Rose, was given to city officials about a month ago by the firm conducting the reassessment.

“It could go down,” Taylor said of the proposed tax rate. “It depends on what City Council wishes to do at that time.”

Taylor said a public hearing on the tax rate will be set in late May or early June. Ample time has to be given for hearings to be set with the Board of Equalization for property owners who object to their reassessments.

On property currently valued at $100,000 but reassessed at $110,000, the owner would pay $935 in taxes at the proposed 85-cent rate, up from $900.

The city manager emphasized that the 10 percent increase in property assessments is an estimate. Some properties could have less of an increase, and others may have more, Taylor said.

Also under the proposed budget, water rates would go up 3 percent and sewer rates 2 percent. For a resident using 5,000 gallons per month, the increase would equal about 95 cents n 22 cents for water and 73 cents for sewer.

“The average bill is less than that (5,000 gallons),” he said.

The monthly fee for garbage collection and disposal would also increase by $1 for residential users, bringing the cost to $32.

This also includes an increased recycling fee of 18 cents per month.

According to Rose, this brings the garbage to almost an “enterprise fund,” which is “having something pay for itself.”

A 2 percent across-the-board pay increase for city employees is also proposed.

“In order to cover the required state cuts to the budget, the required increases in operational costs, provide a 2 percent salary increase for city employees and a 2 percent increase in funding for schools, reduction of $150,000 in the transfer from the electric fund required some major and very difficult cuts to the things the city has generously funded in the past,” Taylor wrote in a “preamble” to the proposed budget, which is posted on the city’s Web site at

Taylor said that state cuts will result in the loss of about $70,000 from the general fund and $9,200 from other funds.

The school board asked the City Council for a 5 percent, or $223,592, increase, according to Taylor.

“We are providing schools with a 2 percent increase, which is $93,028,” he said.

The figure falls $130,564 of short of the school board’s request.

The school board asked for funding for a 4 percent pay increase for teachers. As part of its budget request, the schools compared teacher salaries with those in surrounding divisions and reported local salaries to be lagging.

The schools’ budget request also included a 2 percent increase for employees other than teachers, an additional teacher, consulting fees to continue the 4-by-4 scheduling at the high school, and the addition of 1.5 vocational teachers to implement the 4-by-4 and to provide more vocational electives.

Taylor and Rose said that the city will get half of the new real estate tax revenue generated by Lowe’s and Farm Fresh. Southampton County will get the other half as part of a revenue-sharing agreement.

The new retailers, along with an addition to Money Mailer’s building in the Pretlow Industrial Park, is anticipated to add about $16 million in assessed value to the tax rolls.

In a change to the initial draft of the budget, council members decided at a Monday night work session to add a dispatcher to the payroll.

“Funds will come from reduction in other areas of the budget,” Taylor explained. “It’s around $38,000.”

Rose said $13,000 of that total would come from “overtime and part-time being reduced, and $25,000 would be from a vehicle that will not be purchased.”

Another change is the restoration of $2,500 for Western Tidewater Free Clinic.

The proposed budget was drafted by Taylor, Rose and other staff but requires approval of the City Council before becoming official.

The budget was approved for advertisement on Monday night. A public hearing on the budget will be held during the City Council’s regular meeting on May 12 at 7 p.m. Adoption of the budget is scheduled for June 9.

Copies of the budget are available for review at the Ruth Camp Campbell Memorial Library, Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center and the city manager’s office.