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Mills River homeowners will see tax increase

Many Mills River homeowners and businesses will see an increase in their property tax bills this fall after the Town Council adopted a budget that increases the tax rate by a penny.

 

The new tax rate of 19 cents per $100 valuation includes an 11 cent levy for Mills River Fire & Rescue — up 2 cents from the current rate — and 8 cents for all other town expenses, down a penny. Given the appreciation of real estate in the new countywide assessment, however, many taxpayers could see a significant increase when they open their bill in September.

“Out of pocket (taxes) to the average citizen is up,” Councilman Wayne Carland said.

Mills River Fire Chief Rick Livingston has said the increase in the fire department budget was needed to pay for a new fire station on N.C. 280 and new fire trucks.
The Town Council on Thursday unanimously adopted the 2019-20 budget of $3,441,770. The 19-cent tax rate is almost 3 cents higher than the revenue neutral tax rate of 16.3 cents. In the 2019 countywide revaluation, the total taxable valuation in Mills River increased by 19 percent. A 3-cent tax increase would cost the owner of a $300,000 home an additional $90 a year if the home's taxable value remained level.
Carland questioned an increase in the parks and recreation budget of $92,000.
“This is where the general public gets on our case of why this jump in one department,” he said. “I want to be able to answer them.”

Councilman Richmond Meadows said that he opposed incorporation of the town but as time went on he decided to join the town effort by running for the council. “I’ve been watching it grow and watching what’s happened,” he said. “I’m very happy with what y’all have done, Wayne, and appreciate it. There’s going to be a few (that complain) but I don’t see it as a major problem. We get good accolades from three or four counties around about our park. We continue to see people that say thank y’all for what you’ve done and for what’s fixing to be done.”
The park budget increase from $272,950 to $364,800 funds a new full-time park position, sets aside more for part-time park rangers, and pays for a new zero-turn riding mower, tennis backboard and playground mulch.
“That is the one area that seems to me to have the greatest activity and the greatest appreciation by your citizens, is your park,” interim Town Manager Mark Burrows said. “My observation is it’s been a high priority of this board and it’s greatly appreciated by the citizens.”

Later, Mayor Chae Davis raised the issue of an even bigger park expense — a baseball field. When the town asked for bids on the project in March, prices soared above $500,000 — $150,000 higher than the projected cost of $350,000. A consulting engineer estimated the work, which includes fencing, dugouts and bleachers, could cost $650,000. Although the town council did not appropriate money in the new budget for the project, board members say the town has enough in its fund balance to cover the cost.