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Mills River begins to consider proposed budget

The Town Council in Mills River on Thursday evening began considering a proposed budget for 2023-2024 that lowers its overall tax rate by one cent.

Under the $9,468,711 budget proposal Town Manager Daniel Cobb presented to council, the town’s property tax rate will decrease from 19 cents per $100 of valuation to 18 cents per $100 of valuation, with the amount of the tax rate set aside for Mills River Fire and Rescue going from 11 cents to 10 cents. The amount of the tax rate going to the town will remain at the 8 cents the town currently receives.

The revenue neutral tax rate for Mills River is 15.2 cents per $100 of property valuation.
The proposed budget is an increase of $3,726,201 over the town’s current adjusted budget of $5,742,510.
Much of the increase in the proposed budget, Cobb said, is due to capital projects.
“We’re making some very long-term investments,” he said. “These are going to become public property for generations.”
The proposed budget includes $3,356,500 for capital projects and $6,215,600 in the town’s operating budget. Funds from the American Rescue Plan account for $2 million of the proposed capital budget, Cobb said.
Of the $2 million in ARP funds, $1.5 million will go toward the $2 million the town is spending to buy 68 acres adjacent to the town hall. The property currently includes a dairy. The remaining $500,000 for the property will come from savings, Cobb said. The town does not yet have definite plans for the property.
The remaining $500,000 in ARP money will go toward funding Farmland Preservation. The town plans to partner with a land trust to help purchase conservation easements from farmers who want to protect their land from development.
Other capital projects in the proposed budget include creating a managed meadow and green space on 19 acres the town owns.
About 15 acres of the property will be used for a managed meadow that will involve removing invasive species and growing a combination of native species and grasses. The remaining four acres will be a greenspace.
Mills River also plans to hire a consultant to help the town update its zoning ordinance, Cobb said.
Cobb said he recommended keeping the town’s tax rate essentially the same for 2023-2024 because the town intends to expand its services. The town’s park is in need of more maintenance and more personnel, he said.
Property values in Mills River increased by almost 34 percent after a recent reappraisal that saw values increase by an average of 48 percent countywide.
In response to the increase in property values, Henderson County is considering a budget that lowers its tax rate 23 percent from 56.1 cents per $100 of valuation to 43.1 cents per $100 of valuation.
Fletcher is considering lowering its tax rate from 34 cents per $100 valuation to 28 cents per $100 valuation. Property values in Fletcher increased under the recent reappraisal by 43 percent.
Mills River’s town council is considering holding another meeting on the budget later this month and is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the budget on June 8.