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Mills River plans park improvements

The Mills River Town Board adopted a $2.5 million budget Thursday that keeps the tax rate at 18 cents per $100 valuation while continuing to fund police coverage, at $646,000 a year, and add improvements to the town park.

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Among the park improvements are $45,000 for a shade structure over the playground, $6,000 for tree planting between the tennis courts and a neighboring dairy farm and $5,000 for an automated gate for dawn to dusk access to the park.
Other park priorities for 2017-18 are a new picnic shelter and restroom, for $217,000, and a basketball court, for $125,000. The town has applied for a state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant to cover the cost. It would require a 50-50 match.

The town has a fund balance of $3,276,632, or 132 percent of the FY 2015-16 budget.
Town Manager Jeff Wells said as the town grows residents demand services. New construction is adding to the tax base to help pay for services.
“We’re seeing some great growth,” he said.
Departmental budgets include:
• Police, through a contract with the sheriff’s office, $646,300, same as last year.
• Fire, $869,000, up $25,600.
• Streets and highways, $17,000, up $4,000. Funds new street lights at N.C. 280 and Butler Bridge Road.
• Planning and Zoning, $74,950, up $9,100.
• Economic Development, $52,000, up $8,500. Includes economic development incentives for Sierra Nevada, Raumedic, GF Linamar and Smart Products.
• Library, $8,200, up $2,740.
• Parks, $261,840, up $60,450. Pays for new swings and electronic gate.
The town is also increasing the payment a USDA loan for town hall and the library by $1,000 a month, reducing the loan payoff from 15 years to 10½ years and trimming the overall borrowing cost.
The 18-cent tax levy generates $1,779,000. Proceeds from nine cents of the levy fund Mills River Fire & Rescue.