Ellerbe hikes tax rate

By: By Christine S. Carroll - Staff Writer

ELLERBE — Town commissioners took less than five minutes Monday to approve a tight fiscal 2019 budget that includes higher taxes for residents and bigger paychecks for employees.

“Tight” means that the budget:

• eliminates yearly donations to the United Way, the Mineral Springs Improvement Council’s Mayfest and the town’s fledgling strawberry festival;

• trims the town’s contract with a code-enforcement officer so the money can be diverted to the hiring of a town bookkeeper; and

• raises fees for out-of-towners seeking eventual burial in the town cemetery.

The cemetery fees mark one of three areas expected to raise revenue during the new year. The other two are a state grant to improve the rest area on U.S. 220 and the town-run basketball league.

Whether the town eventually makes money because of the reopened rest stop won’t be evident for two or three years, Clerk Jane Smith said Monday. And even then, the benefit may be difficult to measure.

Starting July 1, all fees for town-organized sports will be $35 per registrant, although commissioners had considered lower fees for families and higher ones for out-of-towners.

Commissioners fretted about the move in the wake of a county tax increase but eventually decided on a 5-cent hike, bringing the town’s property tax rate to 60 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Although not grand, rising revenues will allow the town to give its eight employees a 5 percent raise and offset by $20 monthly the cellphone expenses of seven employees who use their devices for work.

During their budget work sessions, Smith told commissioners that the water and sewer budgets were strong, although they could not use water or sewer income to help balance the rest of the budget. By law, water and sewer must pay for themselves and not draw on a city’s general fund. Even if they do superbly, they cannot contribute profits to the general fund.

No residents attended any of the three budget workshops, and none spoke on the budget before commissioners approved it Monday.

By Christine S. Carroll

Staff Writer

Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]

Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]