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No new taxes budget in Laurel Park raises water bills by 2.5%

Laurel Park town board members Paul Hansen, Mayor Carey O'Cain, Bob Vickery and Rich Cooke review town budget. Laurel Park town board members Paul Hansen, Mayor Carey O'Cain, Bob Vickery and Rich Cooke review town budget.

LAUREL PARK — The Laurel Park Town Council adopted a $2.15 million no-new-taxes budget for 2013-14 on Tuesday with a warning that pending legislation in Raleigh could raise costs or trim projected town revenue.

"Actions, ongoing in Raleigh, will affect the execution of the fiscal year 2013-14 budget," Mayor Carey O'Cain said.
State legislators are considering several tax reform bills that will affect local governments. The reforms include changes within the sales tax system, utility franchise tax system, eliminating local government's share of beer and wine tax and eliminating sales tax exemption for local governments. O'Cain's budget message quoted an Associated Press story saying that the proposed tax package would "force local governments to raise property taxes to recoup lost revenue."
That can't happen, however, after cities and counties have adopted their budgets.
"In another words we're anticipating something happening that we're going to have to adapt to on our own," Town Manager Jim Ball said. "Once we adopt the budget we cannot go back and adjust the property tax rate. It's a very very tough thing to talk about because everything is so nebulous."
The general fund budget is up 3.5 percent, or $72,050, from the current year's budget. The general fund budget is funded by a property tax rate of 36 cents per $100 valuation, maintaining the current rate. The water budget of $338,100 is up by 7.4 percent, or $23,300, because the city of Hendersonville raised water rates by 2.5 percent. The sewer fund is $83,000 up 3.8 percent, or $3,000, also because of a 2.5 percent increase from the city of Hendersonville. The water rate is up by 15 cents per 1,000 gallons and the sewer rate is 16 cents per 1,000 gallons.
"Laurel Park has no debt," O'Cain said in his budget message. "The financial health of the town is stable."
The budget includes $62,000 for a dump truck with snow plow, $32,000 for a police cruiser and $4,700 for computer upgrades and a fireproof cabinet. It funds a 1.7 percent employee pay raise, a 19 percent increase in health care premiums and a 6.3 percent Valley Hill Fire Department increase. The town is using $124,000 in reserves to balance the budget. A copy of the 2013-14 budget is available for public inspection at Town Hall.
The council also extended the town's current contract with Republic Services for trash collection for five years. The contract does have provisions for termination if the service level provided would not meet the town's specifications, O'Cain said.
Police Chief Bobbie Trotter reported at the meeting that residents have complained of speeding, causing the police force to enforce traffic offenses more heavily. The speeders are mostly non-resident drivers, Trotter said.