INDIAN TRAIL – Leaders in Indian Trail will get their chance later this month to make amendments to a $12.3 million proposed budget that as of now has no tax increase but does earmark $35,000 to determine if the town needs more Union County Sheriff’s Office deputies.
Town manager Joe Fivas made a quick pass through his proposed budget Tuesday night, May 14, that looks to continue a number of projects made possible in part by the 4-cent tax increase proposed during last year’s budget talks – namely a number of sidewalk projects, largely funded by air quality grants; road additions and improvements as part of the town’s Pathways 2 Progress initiative; and the Chestnut and Crooked Creek at Indian Trail parks.
The proposed budget includes the $35,000 for a law enforcement needs assessment Mayor Michael Alvarez recently asked for and town council members and Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey supported. The budget does not include money for additional deputies at this time, with council having passed on a suggestion to add deputies in anticipation of the needs assessment’s findings. If the assessment remains part of the proposed budget when it’s approved, potentially on June 11, town leaders will discuss exactly what the assessment will target. It’s anticipated to show Indian Trail officials how many more, if any, deputies are needed to keep residents safe and improve response times to where town council wants them to be. Council members then would have to vote on how to fund any additional deputies, at a cost of around $80,000 per deputy.
The budget proposed on Tuesday night does not include any money for a town community center, which as discussed could include an Indian Trail town hall. Councilman Chris King, a proponent of the community center, said he will bring the topic up for discussion once the budget is adopted, meaning it likely won’t be pushed onto the 2013-14 fiscal budget.
Fivas, speaking on the potential costs of a community center after presenting his budget, said the town already has $1.4 million set aside for such a project, which would likely cost $3 million to $5 million. If town council agreed on a five-year loan for the project, Fivas said payments would start at between $800,000 to $900,000 a year and decrease over time. A 10-year loan would leave the town paying around $500,000 a year, decreasing each year, and a 15-year loan would start at $350,000. Council did not give any feedback Tuesday night on the center other than King’s comment about discussing the project at a later date.
Council did not instruct Fivas to make any changes to his proposed budget on Tuesday night, though they could between now and a scheduled vote in June. The public workshop, scheduled for May 28, also could result in changes, as could a discussed feedback session Alvarez may hold before the June vote.
The town’s proposed budget’s larger projects are mostly “infrastructure driven,” Fivas said Tuesday night, referring to the road and sidewalk projects that allow the town to “start down the pathway of tacking some of those traffic congestion issues,” and the two parks. The town manager credited the efficiency of staff – some 30 employees in Indian Trail compared to hundreds in similarly sized towns like Monroe and Matthews – for being able to present a balanced budget with an 18.5-cent per $100 of taxable property tax rate. The next lowest tax rate for a city of similar size to Indian Trail in the state is in Matthews, at 30.25 cents. Matthews has proposed a 2-cent tax increase this year.
Part of that is due to funding created by the town’s new deal with Waste Pro for solid waste services. The contract will save the town $2.5 million over five years. But the town also is able to keep its tax rate low, Fivas pointed out, due to the “concerning” amount of money the town relies on from intergovernmental coffers compared to other towns.
“If something happened with those state revenues … that will cause a huge disproportionate impact in Indian Trail,” Fivas said. The state is currently considering some bills that could impact the amount of state funding Indian Trail gets, though Fivas said other sources could supplement that money. “Our dependence on intergovernmental funds is concerning to staff,” the presentation read Tuesday night.
Fivas also was clear Tuesday night that the town’s flat tax rate doesn’t leave a lot of room for new projects in Indian Trail – though the recently created capital reserve fund is already working on a number of issues. “We have a lot of needs,” Fivas said, pointing to a six-year capital investment plan that includes several items the town may eventually approve.
The proposed budget should be available on the town’s website as of Thursday, May 16, Fivas said Tuesday night. Copies also will be available at the Union West Regional Library.
Town council also heard an update on design of the Chestnut Park, which is currently under construction. Council saw design drawings that show the four tennis court and four sand volleyball courts separated by a quad that could be used for musical performances or a farmers’ market. Council members said they were pleased with designs at this point and instructed the developer to continue work. The park could open later this year.
Find more information on the budget and park project at the town’s website, www.indiantrailnc.org.