Indian Trail’s budget drops, but $8.5M wanted for parks

Public hearing on budget scheduled for May 22

by Mike Parks

INDIAN TRAIL – Town leaders got their first look as a group Tuesday, May 8, at a 2012-13 fiscal budget that’s less than last year’s budget, but asks for a new annual $30 solid waste fee on top of plans to try and get $8.5 million in bond money for two new parks.

The Indian Trail town council took part in preliminary budget discussions at their meeting Tuesday. As of now, the actual budget will decrease by $34,370 from last year to $11,150,832, keeping the town’s tax rate at 14.5 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

That’s despite the fact the town’s budget for the Union County Sheriff’s Office increased nearly 7 percent to pay for three new deputy positions; in addition to the town’s plan to pay $330,000 for community parks development and the construction of four sidewalks and $7,000 to convert an administrative building into an Indian Trail Cultural Arts Center.

It’s a “budget that seems to be bursting at the seams,” said council member Christopher King, congratulating town staff on presenting a budget that didn’t call for a tax increase for town necessities.

“(I’m) not sure how you can pull it off,” he added.

How long the town will be able to keep that going is up in the air.

Town Manager Joe Fivas cautioned Indian Trail leaders Tuesday night that they were riding a fine line with the budget and tax rate, owing to the fact the town could at any point lose some of the money it receives from the state in terms of intergovernmental funds – like the $1,468,318 it gets from the Utility Franchise, $1,066,671 from the sales and use tax distribution or $601,581 from the Powell Bill. If that were to happen, Indian Trail would “probably be forced to proactively respond to this dependency,” Fivas wrote in the budget packet town leaders got. That means a tax hike.

Indian Trail is “not being self-sufficient with our tax(es),” Fivas said, adding that town staff has maximized about as much as they can in terms of services for the money they have to work with.

The town tax itself – 14.5 cents – covers 52.9 percent of the town’s budget.

But while property taxes aren’t going up, Fivas does recommend the creation of the annual $30 solid waste fee to pay for services many town residents get. Indian Trail used to have a $60 annual waste fee, but did away with it. Now, Fivas said, Indian Trail should follow the same course towns like Waxhaw and Monroe use in establishing the fee to cover the costs of services.

The town is holding a public hearing on the budget May 22 at 6:30 p.m., followed by another board workshop on the issue. People can view the budget at the Union West Regional Library, 123 Unionville-Indian Trail Road, or on the town’s website, www.indiantrail.org.

The town then could adopt the budget on June 12.

Even if residents aren’t paying more for the town’s budget this year, they may soon be paying more for parks.

The board voted Tuesday night to ask voters for $8.5 million in bond money to be spent on the creation of two new parks in Indian Trail. Some on the board argue parks and recreation are vital for the quality of life in town and to lure in businesses that may otherwise look somewhere else with better amenities.

The bond would pay for a park on 51 acres of land at 304 Matthews-Indian Trail Road, and for an additional park somewhere else in town. The question voters likely will see in November reads:
“SHALL the order authorizing $8,500,000 of bonds secured by the pledge of the full faith and credit of the Town of Indian Trail, North Carolina to pay the costs of providing for the acquisition, construction, renovation, improvement and equipping of parks and recreation facilities for a park located at 304 Matthews-Indian Trail Road and another community park to be designated by the Town, including the acquisition of land, rights-of-way and easements related thereto, if necessary, and a tax to be levied for the payment thereof be approved?”

The board voted nearly unanimously to approve the question for November’s ballot, with only council member David Waddell objecting.

“I think $8.5 million is excessive debt (to take on) for amenities,” Waddell told fellow board members Tuesday. He said it would be justifiable to go into debt for “critical infrastructure,” but he feels in this case board members are “making a mistake.”

Voters narrowly turned down a bond last year of $4.5 million for a park.

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