Proposed Holly Springs budget calls for pay raises

aspecht@newsobserver.comMay 15, 2014 

— A proposed spending plan for the coming year would spare residents from property tax and fee increases, and it would give raises to town employees and elected leaders.

Holly Springs Town Manager Chuck Simmons recently presented the Town Council with a $39.4 million budget proposal for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Simmons called for keeping the property tax rate at 43 cents per $100 valuation and for keeping garbage fees and utility rates at their current levels.

The town may, however, introduce a $3 monthly fee for each household to fund a stormwater program that’s federally mandated. The program will cost about $600,000.

The fee would show up separately on each property owner’s utility bill, Simmons said. The town plans to hold a public meeting on the stormwater program if the Town Council agrees to the monthly fee for residents.

The proposed general fund budget is about 3.2 percent higher than the current year’s budget.

The increase is a reflection of a tax base that continues to grow, but not at the same rate as demand for expanded town services and improved infrastructure.

In that vein, Simmons proposed what he called a “conservative” budget that calls for adding four new staff positions: a building code inspector, a planning technician, a parks maintenance technician and a public works technician.

Simmons noted that the planning and inspection positions existed prior to the economic downturn but were eliminated when the housing market tanked.

“They were eliminated with the understanding that they would be revived when things picked up again,” Simmons said.

The budget also includes funding for up to a 3 percent raise for full-time employees and a 10 percent pay increase for the mayor and Town Council members.

Simmons said he recommended the raise for the council after reviewing the compensation for elected officials in other Wake County towns.

Most Holly Springs council members are currently paid $6,500 a year. The mayor pro-tem makes an extra $265 year.

Elected officials in Fuquay-Varina, Garner, Morrisville and Rolesville earn more than council members in Holly Springs, despite governing towns with smaller populations, Simmons said.

Holly Springs currently pays its mayor the second highest salary in Wake County – more than $15,000, according to Simmons.

But unlike other towns, Holly Springs does not pay the mayor a travel allowance in addition to a base salary.

“More significant, our Mayor consistently works 30-35 hours a week ... as opposed to the majority of other mayors that are employed full time in separate careers,” Simmons wrote in an email, referring to Mayor Dick Sears.

Simmons said the mayor’s hourly wage comes out to about $9 an hour when considering that Sears works about 1,820 hours a year.

“If hourly compensation rates for other Wake County mayors could be accurately calculated based upon gross salary/benefits versus hours worked, our Mayor’s pay may rank in the lower half of Wake County mayors,” he wrote.

Holly Springs is likely to hold a public hearing on the budget at the first Town Council meeting in June.

The budget proposal was the first written by Simmons, who took over as town manager last year after the death of then-town manager Carl Dean.

Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht

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