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Laurel Park embarks on six-year road improvement program

Laurel Park Town Council member George Banta addresses residents concerns about the town’s 2023-2024 budget ahead of Tuesday’s vote. Laurel Park Town Council member George Banta addresses residents concerns about the town’s 2023-2024 budget ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

Laurel Park’s Town Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approved a $7.38 million budget that will fund a large paving project in town that council members said was long overdue.

“We should be ahead of the curve by 2029,” Mayor Carey O’Cain told a room full of Laurel Park residents who came to Town Hall for the morning meeting. “Our roads will be back in acceptable shape by 2029.”
Immediately after the vote to approve the budget, the council again voted unanimously to award Tarheel Paving $1,160,738.95 to pave the roads in Laurel Park.
Although the budget lowers the tax rate to 39.5 cents per $100 of property valuation — 4 cents lower than the current rate — the new levy is 8.5 cents above the revenue neutral rate of 31. This year’s countywide reappraisal of property values raised real property values countywide by an average of 48 percent.
The 2023-2024 budget is 22 percent higher than the town’s current budget of $6 million and reflects the town’s commitment to improving the roads it maintains.
The budget the council approved Tuesday carries forward the town’s streets project from 2023. The budget includes $1,672,720 for roadwork in Laurel Park and will be funded through previous appropriations, 6 cents of the property tax rate and $200,000 from the town’s reserves, according to Town Manager Alex Carmichael.
Carmichael said after the meeting that after the initial amount awarded to Tarheel Paving on Tuesday for the paving project, more of the $1,672,720 set aside for roads will go toward other roads the town identifies as needing to be repaved.
The spending plan also appropriates $742,565 in American Rescue Plan money that the town has not yet used, funding culvert and stormwater infrastructure repair.
Fire protection in Laurel Park will also cost more in the coming year even though Valley Hill Fire and Rescue is to be funded at a lower rate of 9 cents of the proposed 39.5 cents tax rate. Under the current budget, 10 cents of the tax rate fund the town’s fire protection contract with Valley Hill.
Tuesday’s vote came after a few of the about 15 Laurel Park residents who attended the meeting asked the council to reconsider the budget and cut how much the town is setting aside for roads.
Council members said the 2023-2024 budget amounts to three years of budgeting for roads combined into one year’s budget.
“Our $1.6 million is three years of paving rolled into one,” council member George Banta said. “We get the biggest bang for our buck for doing it.”
Council members also noted that the they began working on the budget in January and February but only began hearing concerns from residents about the plan shortly before Tuesday’s vote.
“Please come earlier,” council member Paul Hansen said.