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TOWN BUDGETS: Fletcher plans to buy bodycams, dash board cameras

FLETCHER — Fletcher residents will likely see a property tax rate decrease — but potentially a higher tax bill — if the Town Council adopts the budget it considered during a special meeting in May.

During a budget retreat at Town Hall, Fletcher Town Manager Mark Biberdorf outlined to council members a $9.35 million balanced budget that lowers the town’s current tax rate from 34 cents per $100 valuation to 28 cents per $100 valuation.
The proposed 2023-2024 budget is $699,297 higher than the 2022-2023 budget and reflects a 43 percent increase in real property values in Fletcher determined by the 2023 countywide reappraisal.
“I think we’re headed in the right direction,” Mayor Preston Blakely said during a break in Biberdorf’s presentation earlier this month. “We’re trying to do our best to keep taxes down.”

Biberdorf’s recommended tax rate of 28 cents landed near the revenue neutral rate of 27.7 cents, which taxing authorities must report by law in a revaluation year. The manager’s draft budget came before the fire department presented its FY2024 budget, which proposed a tax rate of 10.5 cents, a penny higher than the number Biberdorf used. The fire tax at 10.5 cents is 1.8 cents above the revenue neutral rate. The appropriation for the fire department increases from $1.5 million to $1.65 million.

Biberdorf on Tuesday said the town for now is continuing to consider a budget with a fire tax rate of 9.5 cents but is interested in what rate the county might set.

If the county sets a fire tax rate of 10.5 cents, council members will have to react.

“They may or may not go with that amount,” Biberdorf said.

Mills River Fire & Rescue provides a small fraction of the town’s fire and rescue services, covering the former Continental Automotive Systems site. The Mills River department proposed a rate of 10 cents per $100 valuation, 1.5 cent higher than revenue neutral. A drop in its appropriation from $107,959 to $20,465 reflects the decrease in property value when Continental pulled out, he said.

The Henderson County Board of Commissioners has reviewed but not yet authorized the fire tax rates for the county’s 12 rural fire departments. Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the proposed $191 million county budget at 5:30 p.m. Monday, June 5, at the Historic Courthouse.

Increases in the recommended budget are mostly for expenses related to equipment and town employees, who would receive a 4 percent cost-of-living increase.
The police department budget rises from $1.98 million to $2.3 million, mainly to buy bodycams and dashboard cameras at a cost of $234,625.
“That is our largest single purchase that is recommended for this budget,” Biberdorf said.
Other increases in the proposed budget include a 5.2 percent increase in health insurance cost, an increase in residential recycling costs, equipment purchases for the public works and parks and recreation departments and technology hardware and system upgrades.
Council is expected to adopt the 2023-24 budget on June 12 after a public hearing and presentation on the proposed budget.