Holly Springs OKs $39.4M budget

aspecht@newsobserver.comJune 4, 2014 

— Residents won’t pay more for property taxes in the coming year, but most will pay a new $3 monthly stormwater fee.

The Holly Springs Town Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a $39.4 million spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

The plan is an increase of 3.2 percent over the current year’s budget, thanks largely to the town’s expanding tax base.

The property tax rate will remain at 43.5 cents per $100 in valuation.

The new monthly fee will fund the town’s stormwater program. The program, which is mandated but not funded by the federal government, requires the town to monitor the water quality of local creeks and lakes such as Bass Lake, Sunset Lake and Harris Lake.

Holly Springs has subsidized the program at $600,000 each year since its inception in 2005. But town leaders don’t want to continue draining reserves that are meant to fund more expensive projects such as water line repairs and upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant.

Council members said they were curious to see if the town would receive a lot of pushback from the public.

The town sent out notification letters about the proposed fee last month and held a public meeting about it on May 29. No one spoke against it Tuesday during a public hearing on the budget.

Council members said they received some emails regarding the fee, but the messages weren’t overwhelmingly negative, according to Councilman Jimmy Cobb.

“Many (emailers) were trying to gain better understanding of what the fee was for and how it was going to be charged,” he said.

Cobb said he considers the fee to be fair because the stormwater management program will serve the people who are paying for it.

Six other Wake County towns charge a stormwater fee ranging from $2 to $4, he noted.

Properties that are undeveloped or have fewer than 600 square feet of impervious area are exempt from the fee. But most property owners in Holly Springs will see the new fee on their utility bill in August.

Non-residential properties – such as businesses, churches and schools – will be charged based on the amount of impervious area on their property. The fee could be as much as $9 a month.

Town raises

Meanwhile, Town Council members and staff are getting raises.

For staff members, the budget provides funding for a 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase and merit pay of up to 3 percent. It includes 10 percent pay increase for the mayor and council members.

Most Holly Springs council members are currently paid $6,500 a year. The mayor pro-tem makes an extra $265 year, and the mayor makes $15,000 a year.

The raises will put the council’s compensation more in line with elected officials in other Wake County towns, according to Town Manager Chuck Simmons.

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

The mayor is currently paid the second-highest base salary in Wake County, according to Simmons. But unlike other mayors, he’s not given a travel allowance.

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

No one spoke out against the raises during the public hearing.

The budget also allows Holly Springs to add four staff positions: a building code inspector, a planning technician, a parks maintenance technician and a public works technician.

The planning and inspection positions existed prior to the economic downturn but were eliminated with the onset of the recession.

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

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