Breakdown in tax hike questioned

Published 1:40 am Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Clemmons facing tax rate increase for fiscal year 2021-22

By Jim Buice
For the Clemmons Courier

The Village of Clemmons has presented an annual budget for fiscal year 2021-22 that proposes a tax rate increase from 11.5 cents to 15 cents per $100 of property tax value, but one of the council members questioned the breakdown in how the extra funds would be used in last Monday night’s meeting.

“We talked about increasing the tax rate to 15 cents, and it was my understanding if we do that increase to 15 cents that the 3½-cent increase would go toward street resurfacing,” councilman Mike Rogers said. “However, I see in the budget only 1.9 cents of that rate would go to street resurfacing.”

Finance director Ann Stroud said, “That’s correct. I apologize. I did not have that understanding that the whole thing would have been to street maintenance.”

Stroud, who added that she would make that change, said there were some differences between what was talked about at the first budget workshop May 10 and what was presented, which included several other changes.

Rogers reiterated that roads in Clemmons are in dire need of more attention.

“I’ve stated several times that our infrastructure is crumbling,” he said. “Our roads, we’re doing crack seal. I want to make sure we get as many roads paved before we continue having to mill, which costs us a lot more money to do.”

Rogers said there were several other items he wanted to address in the next budget workshop Thursday (today) at 3 p.m. in Clemmons Village Hall and wanted to delay the presentation of the budget.

However, Stroud said that the budget was required to be presented by May 31, by statute. She added that discussions can follow, “and you can make any changes you want.”

A public hearing has been called for the next council meeting on June 14 at 6 p.m. for the Budget Ordinance and the Stormwater Utility Fee. The council could then adopt immediately or at the following council meeting on June 28.

Village Manager Scott Buffkin said that Clemmons can have any number of budget workshops either before or after the public hearing so long as the budget for fiscal year 2021-22 (starting on July 1) is adopted by the end of June.

“It can go to June 30, but we would certainly prefer it not be that close,” he said.

The proposed tax rate increase is the first in 10 years for Clemmons.

In Buffkin’s budget message, which was dated on May 24, the total operating budget for the two major funds was $8,914,030 for the General Fund and $1,528,450 for the Stormwater Fund.

He stated that the budget proposes a tax increase and a new tier system and rate increase of the stormwater fee “in order to continue a progressive posture relative to maintaining and creating infrastructure and providing meaningful services to the citizens.

“The village desires to maintain streets at a recommended level, replace equipment for leaf and limb service, and proceed with capital projects. A lot of discussion and thought was put into this decision. In fact, both of these increases were discussed during last year’s budget process; however, due to COVID, were put on hold.”

The village provides the following services: public safety (Forsyth County Sheriff’s Department), residential trash and recycling collection, leaf and limb service, bulk item collections, street lights, greenway, lake and pier, and sidewalk and street construction and maintenance.

Buffkin’s message indicated that the current budget reflects an increase of 6% when compared to the amended fiscal year 2020-21 budget — primarily due to capital projects such as Market Center Drive coming to completion.

Top expenditures include Public Works (29%), Public Safety (20%), Transfers to Capital Projects (12%), Administration (11%), Streets (11%) and Planning & Zoning (7%).

Besides the General Fund, which covers all typical governmental operations, the village operates one enterprise fund — the Stormwater Utility Fund. It is operated as a business by having all revenues and expenses accounted for separately and by having rates established that cover all expenses of the enterprise.

The current stormwater fee is $7.50 per equivalent residential unit per month, which is $90 annually. A residential tier system is applied to this rate. The stormwater budget supports the Clemmons Stormwater Management Program.

In the conclusion of his message, Buffkin stated: “We believe that the revenue and expenditures statements contained within this budget are fair and reasonable and represent council desires. They are conservative without sacrificing the level of service that we are presently providing or hindering improvements that are needed.

“The proposed budget, as presented, is financially sound and demonstrates a genuine effort to be as efficient and cost-conscience as is both prudent and possible.”