The SP adopts the budget and maintains the property tax rate
Following a series of public hearings and a budget retreat with senior staff, the Southern Pines City Council voted on June 14 to approve the budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year. The General Fund budget is balanced at $24,764,819, which represents an increase of approximately $1.5 million over the amended FY 21-22 budget. Along with the budget, Council also voted to keep the property tax rate at $0.40 for the sixth consecutive year.
The approved budget allows Southern Pines to continue its long history of providing high quality services at a relatively low tax rate. The budget for fiscal year 22-23, which begins July 1, not only maintains current service levels, but also includes resources to add two police officers and maintain 6 firefighters funded by an expired SAFER grant. Funds are also allocated to add a position in planning and another in information technology in the middle of the year. The City will be able to fund several capital projects, including street resurfacing, replacement of police and fire vehicles, continuation of sidewalk projects, and needs at various City facilities.
“Each year brings a unique set of challenges as we prepare the budget,” said City Manager Reagan Parsons. “As we enter Fiscal Year 22-23, we are facing levels of inflation we have not seen in decades, volatile fuel and energy prices and a labor market difficult that requires increased wages and benefits to be competitive. Despite these challenges, I am pleased that, for at least another fiscal year, we have been able to continue our current services without an increase in the tax rate. The property tax rate will remain unchanged at $0.40, which should generate approximately $11.7 million or 56% of general fund revenues. Sales taxes are expected to remain strong, representing estimated revenues of $4.1 million.
Southern Pines will also maintain more than $6 million in undesignated fund balances, which will keep the city in a strong financial position in the event of a disaster. This follows a long-standing fiscal policy of setting aside three months of operating expenses in a “bad weather fund”. In addition, $266,025 will be available to fund other projects or opportunities throughout the year, subject to City Council approval. “The amount a local government maintains in fund balance is considered a key indicator of financial health,” says Chief Financial Officer Tess Brubaker-Speis. “I’m glad we’re able to not only set aside 3 months of expenses for emergencies, but also set aside over $266,000 for projects or needs we can’t foresee today. It is policies and practices like these that have enabled Southern Pines to be recognized for more than three decades for excellence in financial reporting by the Government Finance Officers Association.
The budget for fiscal year 22-23 includes funding for a number of capital projects. Southern Pines will allocate nearly $450,000 for public safety needs, including the replacement of six police vehicles and two fire engines as well as fire and rescue equipment. Southern Pines will invest $1.1 million to improve and maintain the city’s sidewalks and roadways, including $900,000 for annual street resurfacing and a transfer of $200,000 to fund roadwork projects. sidewalks ahead.
The City will continue to invest in City facilities and properties, including $100,000 for the rehabilitation of the Reservoir Park Dam and an additional $100,000 to pave the Douglass Community Center parking lot. The city is now contracted to a team of landscape architects and architects for the master plan for the Whitehall property, which will be underway this summer. In addition, the City is currently interviewing professional firms with a view to updating the Comprehensive Long-Range Plan during the next fiscal year.
The general fund budget also includes debt service payments of over $1.26 million that have been used to improve, build or acquire various City facilities and properties over the past few years, in addition to a $137,000 stage payment for a fire truck.
The City plans to undertake or allocate funds for a number of sewer and water infrastructure projects. Nearly $1.1 million will be transferred to capital funds to repair and rehabilitate the water and sewer system, including a short-term water pipeline project on W. Pennsylvania Avenue and Pee Dee Road. Southern Pines will also allocate more than $665,000 to upgrade the water treatment plant.
Southern Pines continues to face increased expenses to provide many services. To partially offset these increases, the monthly fee for solid waste and recycling will be adjusted. Commercial customers will pay $18.25/month which is 100% collection and disposal costs. Residential customers will pay $16.75; Although this is a $4.75 increase, the fee will only cover 60% of the estimated costs for waste collection and disposal, with the City covering the remaining 40% through property taxes. . Water and sewer customers will see a 5% increase in both base and consumer rates. Minor adjustments are also being made to recreation and facility rental program fees to more accurately reflect the true cost of providing these services to individual users. All fee increases will take effect July 1.
The City did not specifically address American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) spending in its budget. Southern Pines elected to take the “standard deduction” representing income replacement. Once the 22-23 fiscal year begins, City Council will work to prioritize spending that meets federal requirements.
“The budget is developed each year with sincere respect and appreciation for the community, its citizens and all those who make Southern Pines an exceptional place to live and do business. I remain grateful to have the opportunity to work daily with talented and dedicated employees and elected officials who embody the concept of “public service”. I look forward to implementing the directives the Board authorized in the Fiscal Year 22-23 budget as we continue to improve what already makes Southern Pines a great place,” Parsons said.
Feature photo: Southern Pines Station by Sandhills Sentinel photographer Cow McFarland.