City to lower proposed tax increase by 6 cents

Published 10:18 am Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Franklin City Council found asking for a 9-cent real estate tax increase of residents unthinkable, so board members elected to schedule an additional work session to figure out ways to cut into that, said City Manager Randy Martin.

In that subsequent meeting, council received some good news of $195,710 in additional revenues that could be identified. Also, several expenditure items were suggested to be cut, which would save the city $134,794. One of those line items was a last-minute decrease for the Southampton County Court project.

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In totality, that savings of approximately $330,000 will bring the recommended tax increase down 6 cents. Instead of proposing a $1.05 tax per $100 in real estate property value, council will have a 99-cent rate on the table. That rate, when combined with a reduction to garbage collection and electricity, will net a savings for the typical Franklin resident compared to what he or she paid in the 2014-15 fiscal year.

It comes at some cost, however. Council will reduce its general fund transfer to the economic development fund by $21,345. This contingency fund, which is used for emergencies, will lose $49,301 during the year.

The Franklin City Public School Division will also lose a projected $50,000 in the base appropriation that had been proposed. Originally, the school system had requested $1.5 million in addition to its base funding, and during the previous 9-cent proposal had been awarded $200,000 above the base.

When Superintendent Willie J. Bell proposed the $1.5 million base increase, he said that approximately $645,000 would be needed to continue as is, without making cuts, due in part to projected decreases in funding from other sources, such as the state. On top of that, budget items including health insurance are projected to increase in 2015-16.

Additional requests in that figure were to help support up to a 5 percent increase to salaries in the district, as well as adding some new positions, including a culinary arts, Spanish and business teacher. Instructional salary would have made up 75 percent of the system’s budget with the 5 percent increase.

The base appropriation to the schools is currently $4.837 million. The system will also receive a carryover of $343,545 that was built into the 2014-15 budget under the previous superintendent.

Bell asked at the May 11 meeting for that carryover to use this year to help cover an approximately $157,000 reduction from the state due to decreased enrollment from projections at the beginning of the year. However, that request was denied by council.

To make do, the system has cut field trips, put in effect a spending freeze and anticipates reducing summer school to four days a week. Bell has said he might go back before the board at the June 8 meeting, which is also when council is expected to vote to approve the 2015-16 budget.

If council does not approve the budget on Monday, it has until the end of the month to do so.

At the current rate of 96 cents per $100 in value, the average Franklin resident who owns a $153,000 home paid $1,468.80. At the 99 cent rate, that same homeowner would pay $1,514.70, an addition of $45.90.

However, Martin added that customers will save $20.88 this year in garbage collection due to the proposed reduced fee. With an average electric rate decrease of $3.78 per 1,300 kilowatt hours used each month, residents project to save money. Added together, the average savings would be $66.24, which means typical Franklin homeowners would save $20.34 in 2015-16, compared to the last fiscal year.