ST. PAULS — The St Pauls Board of Commissioners is nearing adoption of a budget that keeps the same property tax rate, gives employees a raise, bumps some user fees and beefs up law enforcement and fire protection.
The commissioners on Thursday set a public hearing on the $2.4 million budget for June 20. The plan, which keeps the property tax rate at 65 cents per $100 of value, needs to be adopted in advance of July 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year. The tax rate means the owner of a $100,000 home would pay $650 a year in property taxes.
All town employees would get a 1 percent cost-of-living raise and some 2 percent merit raises under the plan, according to Town Administrator J.R. Steigerwald. Department heads will determine who qualifies for merit raises.
“Everyone has had evaluations done, so they know what is expected of them,” Steigerwald said. “It would not be fair unless we had done evaluations.”
Water, sewer and garbage fees will increase, Steigerwald said. The flat monthly fees will each go up one dollar, water to $14, sewer to $24, and garbage to $17.
“We’re trying to take it up a little every year so people don’t suddenly get this shell shock when it goes up 15 percent,” Steigerwald said.
The proposed budget also includes two new police officers and two patrol cars.
The search for one officer will begin immediately, Steigerwald said. However, the commissioners have agreed to wait to hire the other officer until after the town receives its first tax payment from Sanderson Farms, which recently opened a processing plant on N.C. 20 that is expected to employ more than a thousand employees.
The town also will buy a new pumper fire truck at a cost of about $400,000.
Chris Jackson, assistant fire chief, said the department’s youngest fire truck is a 1993 model.
Also on Thursday, the commissioners:
— Heard from John Masters of S. Preston Douglas and Associates, who said the town’s finances are in good shape. He said that town’s reserves are 28 percent of the general fund, well above the 8 percent required by the state. Masters told board members a more comprehensive audit must be conducted because the town will receive more than $750,000 in federal assistance.
— Approved a budget amendment to accept a $150,000 grant that will pay for a study to determine the town’s sewer infrastructure needs.
— Heard from St. Pauls Crimestoppers Chairman Larry McGoogan, who thanked them for their support and talked about the success of the program that provides rewards for tips that help solve crimes.
Reach Terri Ferguson Smith at 910-416-5865.