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City Council endorses 3-cent tax increase

Hendersonville residents would see their property taxes go up by 3 cents — to 44 cents per $100 valuation — under a recommended increase that City Council members endorsed today.

At the end of a budget work session on a proposed $34.7 million 2014-15 budget, council members directed City Manager John Connet to base the budget on the increase, the second 3-cent tax increase since 2011.

"There's no choice," Councilman Jeff Miller said. "You can't expand the city limits, you can't increase fees, you can't make the debt go away. And I'd point out it has nothing to do with the joint venture we did with Wingate."

The city is scheduled to close next month on the purchase of an acre of property on Sixth Avenue at Oakland Street for $650,000. Counting the cost of clearing the property and turning over a buildable vacant lot to the county, the city projects it will spend $700,000 as its share of the joint project.

The 3-cent tax increase would add $75 to the annual bill for the owner of a home assessed for tax purposes at $250,000.
The 7.3 percent increase is a holdover from the election year budget crafting a year ago, when the council brushed aside the interim city manager's recommendation and voted to use reserves to cover debt payments. The council also agreed last summer to put the $6 million Berkeley Park bond issue on the ballot — a borrowing plan that would have resulted in a 3-cent tax increase. City voters rejected the bond issue last November.
The city is paying back money it borrowed to complete the last two blocks of the Main Street makeover and underground water and sewer line replacement, the new Sugarloaf Road fire station and a new fire truck. The city's annual debt service has increased $454,000 since 2012-13.

Connet said he trimmed department heads' budget requests by 5 percent before and delayed or cut $300,000 for Berkeley Park improvements, $25,000 for Sullivan Park improvements and $20,000 for Whitmire parking lot repaving. One of his cuts was $27,000 in repaving city streets; council members objected to the cut, saying the city will just fall further behind in fixing bad roads.