Lenoir weighs tax increase

Mar. 26, 2014 @ 08:26 AM

Members of Lenoir's city council are in agreement on what to spend money on, but not on where to get it from.

The draft of the city's Capital Improvements Plan for fiscal 2014-15 calls for a two-cent tax increase to pay for certain infrastructure and other budget needs, but the City Council was split 4-3 during discussions Tuesday against imposing it.

At a meeting of Lenoir's Committee of the Whole, council members T.J. Rohr, Crissy Thomas, Ron Stilwell and Ike Perkins said they would not support a tax increase, while Ben Willis, Todd Perdue and David Stevens said they would.

Thomas, manager at Wells Fargo in Lenoir, said the economy has not recovered to the point where Lenoir's citizens could bear a tax increase.

Perdue countered that the city's costs continue to go up, and the city has a level of service it's obliged to provide to citizens, saying, "The easy thing to do here is say no," and that he doesn't think "we can continue to pat ourselves on the back for not raising taxes."

Rohr disagreed: "Given that we have to have a balanced budget, it's not easy to say no when you look at things we have to cut."

Stevens said he there isn't enough room in the budget for the city to cut its way to paying for the things that need doing, especially resurfacing roads.

Poor roads is the number one complaint Willis hears from citizens, he said, and without the tax increase, the city is just "kicking the can" by postponing needed road work, and that will result in a large tax increase later instead of a small one now.

Road resurfacing and increasing employee salaries are top priorities for the council. The proposed CIP includes $100,000 for resurfacing, and city officials hope to have $625,000 to put toward increasing employee salaries. 

The council held the property tax rate steady last year at 56 cents per $100 of assessed value, though because of a countywide property revaluation that amounted to a reduction in property tax revenue for the city, City Manager Lane Bailey said.

The N.C. General Assembly also is once again consideration legislation that would cut into the city's tax revenue. One bill would cap the amount that cities may charge for business privelege licenses to $100, which could cost Lenoir as much as $120,000 a year, Assistant City Manager Danny Gilbert said.