City approves budget for 2019-20 fiscal year

Mebane adopted a $30.5 million budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year at Monday night's City Council meeting. The budget includes over three-quarters of a million dollars for the new MACC-Holt Street Park Greenway Trail, over a million dollars for a series of water and sewer improvements related to the Arbor Creek and Cambridge Park subdivisions, and approximately $575,000 for continued street resurfacing throughout town. There are no tax increases, nor are there any increases in water and sewer utility rates. 

At Monday night’s City Council meeting, Mebane’s elected officials adopted an ordinance to approve a $30.5 million budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year. The budget was approved after months of careful planning and negotiating with City officials. 

“A lot of work goes into what quickly got approved here,” Mebane City Manager Chris Rollins said. “It’s months and months of work. The spreadsheets are rather mind-boggling. The number of them. How it all has to add up and balance. By state law, we are required to adopt a balanced budget, where the revenues and expenditures do balance. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work, and a lot of late hours that go into preparing this.” 

“This is a long process,” Rollins continued. “It started back in January with personnel requests from Department heads. Along the way, we had a work session with the Council on March 26, and another work session on April 16. Last month - May 6 - City Manager David Cheek presented the recommended budget.” 

The total budget for Mebane’s General Fund is $21,192,300. The total budget for the Utility Fund is $9,334,170, making a combined total of $30,526,470 for Mebane’s 2019-20 municipal budget. 

There are no tax increases proposed, as the tax rate will remain at 47 cents per $100 dollars of assessed value. There are approximately $2,060,871 in capital funds allotted in this budget.

Mebane’s tax base, as included in the budget, is $2,276,327,101. The City enjoys a 99 percent collection rate between Orange and Alamance Counties, which generates approximately $11,124,975. One penny on Mebane’s current tax rate generates $225,356 in revenues for the City. 

Mayor Glendel Stephenson and members of the City Council marveled at the dramatic increases in Mebane’s budget and its tax base.

“Four or five years ago, one cent equaled $175,000,” City Council member Everette Greene stated. “It’s amazing how that’s gone up.” 

“I first came to the city in 1975. If I remember correctly, he budget for the City was $1.5 million. It’s 20 times that now,” added Stephenson.  

General Fund construction projects in this year’s budget include a series of sidewalk improvements throughout Mebane ($45,000), and the MACC to Holt Street Park Greenway Trail ($784,070). 

“We had some money we were carrying over from last year to get us to the total we needed to drastically reduce the numbers (for the Greenway Trail) from what we’ve talked about in the past,” Rollins indicated. 

For the construction of Cates Farm Park’s Phase I, Rollins explained that the City has existing funding from Impact Alamance, but Mebane is increasing the funding by $62,101 to complete the initial phase of that new park. 

Mebane has also budgeted two new vehicles for the Mebane Police Department ($106,938), a wide range of street resurfacing ($575,000), an automated garbage truck ($280,000), a One-Ton dump truck for Mebane’s Public Works Department ($85,000), and the National Fitness Campaign Grant match, in the amount of $60,000, for a new Fitness Park at the Mebane Community Park. 

Utility Fund projects in Mebane’s 2019-20 budget includes a water line loop to eliminate some dead ends along Old Hillsborough Road, which has become a busy corridor for residential new home construction south of the freeway ($475,000). The City has also allotted $300,000 for the oversizing of utilities to put in larger lines around the Cambridge Park subdivision. 

The City is allocating $750,000 for a series of utility improvements for the Arbor Creek subdivision, which will also aid Cambridge Park. 

“We’re hoping to build an outfall from the existing Arbor Creek pump station down the creek, over to the Cambridge Park project,” Rollins said. “That will allow us to eliminate that Arbor Creek outfall, and then the sewer from Cambridge Park and Arbor Creek will be pumped to Graham for treatment. It does gain us some capacity in our plant. The Arbor Creek pump station actually pumps to two other pump stations, where we have limited capacity. That will help us not have to invest money in those other pump stations in the near future.” 

In addition, Mebane is investing $5,610,000 for upgrades to the City’s Wastewater Recovery Facility, as well as $750,000 for a necessary flood wall at the Wastewater Recovery site along Corrigidor Street. 

Mebane currently has 135 full-time positions, along with 21 part-time positions. This year’s budget approved 6 new positions - 23 were proposed - along with a 2 percent cost of living increase, an average merit increase of 1.5 percent for City employees, along with funds to cover an approximate 6 percent health insurance increase. 

Mebane’s six new positions includes one new position for the Mebane Fire Department, two positions in Public Works, one in the City’s Planning Department, and two in Utilities. 

Mebane’s fee schedules have increased in some areas. Garbage and recycling citywide, which has in the past been called a User Fee, is increasing from $6.50 to $8.00 a month. 

“Nothing has changed (with recycling fees) in many years. The main reason for that (the $1.50) is the change in the recycling market,” Rollins explained. “Everybody has sort of heard in the news, China has quit taking, for lack of better words, the dirty recycling we’ve been sending there. All the markets are trying to figure out what we’re going to do with those recyclables here in the states. The cost of recycling is increasing currently.” 

Along with the increase in recycling fees, rezoning application fees are increasing from $200 to $300), Special Use Permit applications are increasing from $200 to $400, while fire suppression (sprinkler) system inspections are increasing to $150 (1 riser), $300 (two risers), and $500 (three or more risers). In addition, there is an added building occupancy permit - where a business changes hands and possible uses for that business changes - which will cost $100. 

There are no changes in Mebane’s water and sewer utility rates. 

In regards to Mebane’s long-term Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), which covers upcoming years 2020 through 2024, the General Fund projects $32 million in expenditures, while the Utility Fund projects $19 million in spending, for a total of $51 million. These are expenses that the City projects in the coming years, but will not actually fund until future budgets. 

“When we talk about the CIP, you’re not approving those projects. You’re approving the plan,” Rollins explained to the City Council. “As they’re implemented (the capital projects in future years),  that is approved in the budget years, as you’re approving the individual budgets.” 

The City’s current appropriated fund balance is approximately $1.5 million in the General Fund, and $1.48 million in the Utility Fund. 

The City is also actively continuing its Meter Replacement Program, with City officials going all over town to replace old meters with new ones. 

“Just in the last couple of weeks, if you noticed a guy in your front yard with a bucket - we had about a thousand meters changed out to the new technology. That has been going very well,” Rollins said.