City proposes 9 percent tax increase

Published 1:07 pm Saturday, May 23, 2015

After all the budget requests came in, Franklin City Manager Randy Martin was faced with a $3.5 million shortfall between expenditures and projected revenue. The good news is that it was solved; the bad news is that $2 million in cuts had to be made, and for the citizens, a 9 percent tax hike might have to occur.

The 9 cent increase would raise the rate from 96 cents per $100 value to $1.05. It is projected to put an additional cost of $495,756 on the backs of Franklin taxpayers.

Martin tied the proposed increase to four budget drivers including:

• $70,856 in increased cost of confinement being paid to the Western Tidewater Regional Jail;

• $109,248 in increased debt payments related to the schools and general fund;

• funding a $200,000 base increase to the school board’s budget — out of a requested total of $1.5 million in addition to its base funding; and

• a 2 percent salary increase for city employees, which would cost $128,000.

Cuts include level funding for most agencies, delaying building repairs, level funding Downtown Franklin appropriation, reducing the Incubator transfer from the general fund, delaying equipment and vehicle purchases and eliminating the contribution to the Isle of Wight Skating Rink.

Including all of the school’s debt service with the division’s proposed budget, Martin said about 27 percent of the city’s expenses were related to the Franklin City Public School system. That’s a figure of $6,040,332. Martin compared that to roughly 27 cents out of the proposed $1.05.

In the enterprise funds, the water and sewer and airport funds will remain at the status quo. Management was originally going to propose a 10 percent increase to the water and sewer rates to help pay for improvements to the aging and deficient infrastructure. However, the action was deferred to analyze the impact.

Martin said to completely improve the wastewater collection system, $9.77 million would be required. He also added that the current average residential bill of $63.33 for the use of 5,000 gallons was below the state’s average of $72. Industrial bills at $6,789 are well below the state average for 1 million gallons of $12,231.

The solid waste rate will decrease from $39.74 to $38. Overall, the electric rate will also decrease by an average of $3.78 per month based on a customer using 1,300 kilowatt hours.

So, while Martin said the tax rate may rise, savings from the garbage collection and electric rates will help offset it. For a homeowner with a property value of $100,000, the 9 cent increase would account for an increase of about $90, from $960 to $1,050. However, with the yearly savings of $20.88 in garbage pick up and $45.36 in electricity would bring that down to $23.76 additional out of pocket.

For Franklin’s average home value of $153,000, the increase would go from $1,468.80 to $1,606.50, or a total of $137.70. Martin said that after considering the reduced fees, the additional out of pocket would be $71.46.

The proposed 2015-16 general fund budget is $146,000 less than the previous year’s amended budget. Of the total proposed budget, including all enterprise funds, there is a decline of more than $5 million compared to last year.

Martin tied the largest decrease to grant-funded capital projects, and in particular, improvements made at the airport.

A public hearing on the budget will be on Monday, June 1. Council will vote on the proposed budget on Monday, June 8.