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Proposed city budget would raise taxes, garbage fee, water bills

The Hendersonville City Council will take up a proposed 2013-14 budget that includes a 3-cent tax increase to cover the debt for its new Sugarloaf Road fire station, a new fire truck and the third phase of the Main Street makeover. The proposal also includes a $2-a-month increase in garbage collection fees, a 2.5 percent increase in water bills and a small surcharge to raise $66,125 for a Mills River watershed protection effort.

Interim City Manager Lee Galloway said he proposed the tax increase, raising $480,000, to cover the debt service the city incurred for a new fire station, new fire truck and the third phase of the Main Street makeover and underground infrastructure replacement. The city borrowed $6 million for the projects, at a cost of $506,800 a year for 20 years.

Galloway also proposed a $2 a month increase in the city garbage collection fee. The money is needed to pay for a $300,000 recycling collection truck and two employees. The City Council has approved a switch to rollout containers for recycling instead of bins. Other cities have found that the switch has greatly increased the volume of recyclables collected. If that happens it will reduce the city's tipping fees at the landfills.

A year ago, the City Council voted to cut in half the utility department's proposal to raise water bills by 5 percent, Galloway said. The other half of that increase is included in the proposal this year. In addition, a fee increase of 4 cents for each 1,000 gallons of usage would raise $66,125, the amount the Mills River Partnership sought to fund the watershed protection efforts.

Galloway also proposed $1.17 million in cuts. He proposed cuts of $51,320 for the city-funded school resource officer, $35,000 for downtown WiFi, $40,000 for repairs to Fire Station 1; $40,000 from Berkeley Park improvements, and $544,000 in street work.

The Berkeley Park cut from the regular budget could be replaced if the City Council moves forward with plans for a bond issue to raise money for park improvements. A consultant has told the City Council that completing the master plan for the park would cost $4.2 million. The council is exploring putting a bond issue on the ballot in November but has not yet made a decision to do so.

The combination of revenue increases and budget cuts would reduce the amount the city would have to take from its surplus to balance the budget, Galloway said. Without the tax and fee increases and budget cuts, the city would have to take $2.7 million from the fund balance; with them it will need to take $905,190. The budget cuts and new revenue add up to $1.78 million.

The council will discuss the budget in detail during a workshop on May 17. Among the requests it will discuss is a request by Police Chief Hubert Blake for the council's blessing of a grant application to add a school resource officer so the police department would be able to cover four public schools in the city limits — one for Hendersonville middle and elementary schools and one for Hendersonville High School and Bruce Drysdale Elementary School.