Mebane City Manager David Cheek presented to the Mebane City Council and the general public the City’s projected 2019-20 fiscal year budget at last week’s City Council meeting.
The City’s General Fund is projected to budget $21,192,300 over the next fiscal year, while the Utility Fund is projected to budget $9,334,170. That’s a grand total of $30,526,470 - an 8.1 percent increase over Mebane’s 2018-19 fiscal year budget.
Cheek attributed the increased budget expenditures to all the growth in Mebane, indicating that the City will set a new record in June for the most sustained growth in the state of North Carolina. The City approved more than 300 building permits this past year, with a five-year average of 150 building permits annually. Cheek indicated that the City has currently approved 2,663 single-family units citywide, with nearly 450 permitted for construction in the coming months.
There are no tax increases projected in this year’s budget, with $11,124,975 projected in property tax revenue - a 4.6 percent increase year-over-year - along with sales tax revenues exceeding $3.5 million. The current tax rate is 47 cents, with 1 penny worth approximately $225,356 in revenue.
The tax base of Mebane exceeds $2 billion, as it grew 5.1 percent year-over-year to $2,276,327,101. The City’s tax collection rate is a superb 99 percent.
The City’s largest expenditures in the 2019-20 budget include the MACC-Holt Street Greenway, six new positions, an incentive payment to Lotus Bakeries, a fire Training Vehicle, two new cars for the Mebane Police Department, a $575,000 appropriation for street repaving and repair contracts, an automated garbage truck, an increase in the City’s recycling hauling contract, and debt service for the MACC-Holt Street Greenway.
The City has budgeted approximately $45,000 for sidewalk improvements, $784,000 for the MACC-Holt Street Greenway Trail, and $62,101 for the Phase I construction of Cates Farm Park.
“We are proposing to finance the Greenway. So there’s a debt payment related to the Greenway,” Cheek explained.
The City Manager explained that there was $24.7 million in budget requests, and approximately $3.5 million in budget cuts. There were 23 new positions requested by various City agencies, with six new positions recommended.
“We had record-setting requests this year,” Cheek said.
In the 2019-20 fiscal year budget, Mebane will subsidize 135 full-time jobs, 21 part-time positions, a 2 percent COLA (cost of living adjustment) increase, and a 1.5 percent average merit increase, a 19.45 percent retirement contribution rate, and a 6.6 percent increase in health insurance premiums and other costs.
The six new job positions requested by the City Manager include a full-time Fire Administrative Support Specialist, a PW Maintenance Worker II, a PW Equipment Operator I, a Code Enforcement Officer, a Utilities Equipment Operator I, and a Reclassification of Maintenance Worker II from the General Fund to Utility Fund.
Some of the top requested items that were not included in this year’s City budget included five requested Mebane Police Department positions and three new MPD vehicles, the proposed trails at Lake Michael, maintenance at Fieldale Road, a parking lot at the new Community Park, widening and repaving at Foust Road, three positions for the Mebane Fire Department, a band shell at the amphitheater at the new Community Park, a IT (internet technology) position, a Planner II position, and a classroom at the City’s training tower.
The top five expenditures in terms of agencies were the Mebane Police Department, the Mebane Fire Department, Mebane Recreation and Parks, non-departmental requests, and Public Works. This is the first time in recent years that the Mebane Recreation and Parks Department exceeded the expenditures of non-departmental requests, but is primarily because of the new MACC-Holt Street Greenway.
“Based on what we looked at with the Police Department, we think they only need two cars. And I think they agree, going through the numbers. They seem to be fine with that. And that’s what I’m proposing in the budget,” Cheek said.
Mebane Police Chief Terry Caldwell indicated that his agency will be coming back to city leaders next year to fund not only the three police vehicles requested that were not funded this year, but also the five new positions that were not approved.
“I think based on the results of this year, we still feel like we need to replace Police vehicles. So we’ll be bringing those requests back next year, in all probability,” Caldwell said. “We would plan on carrying those three (car) requests forward to next year’s budget. With the original request of five being approved, we certainly would be carrying those three forward, in additional to personnel requests, and vehicles that will come along with those personnel requests.”
“Our requests are associated with our personnel requests. I think we’ve averaged a couple (replacements per year). What we continue to experience is the buildup. These requests will continue to come forward, because those vehicles, we feel, will need to come off the line at some point in time. Those replacement requests don’t go away. They will continue to be carried forward.”
“Are you comfortable with two (new cars) this year?” City Council member Tim Bradley asked Caldwell.
“I’m comfortable,” Caldwell said in response. “We’ll manage. We’ll deal with whatever Council approves going forward. But I do say very sternly those requests will continue to come. The three that we don’t replace (this year), I think we agreed we would try to get through the next year. But is there a need to replace these vehicles? Certainly.
After asking about the approximate time frame for ordering a police vehicle - which the Chief answered as six months - City Council member Ed Hooks suggested that they explore the issue again in the winter months, as they begin to make preparations for the new year.
“The fact that we’re financing them, why don’t we look at this again in December or January, and see where we are?” Hooks questioned.
“I like Ed’s suggestion of proceeding with the two cars (in the 2019-20 budget), and returning to this in six months. If we need to make an adjustment, then we can do that,” City Council member Patty Philipps said in agreement with Hooks.
Cheek explained that Mebane has seven vehicles that are salvageable and could potentially be sold at some point in time to raise the funds for another MPD vehicle.
“We might be able to generate some income to buy maybe one more car by selling some of the salvage vehicles,” Cheek said. “A lot of those are in the 95,000 to 100,000 mile range. They’re usually 2011 and 2012 cars. So you’re getting about that much time out of them (six to eight years).”
Caldwell said that future MPD vehicles might actually get additional lifespan in service.
“I think the vehicles we’re purchasing now - and with the way the fleet is being managed - once we get past these cars that we feel need to be taken out of service, the cars that would be next in line should be able to carry a few years longer, because they’ve been individually-assigned cars the whole time. They have not been run 24 (hours), 7 (days a week),” Caldwell said.
Outside agencies that requesting funding from the City of Mebane included requests for a historical and cultural record of City history, the operations of the Mebane Historical Museum, performing arts and public art, the Tommy Long Train Collection, medical and human services transportation, and 211 services for emergency housing, food, utilities, and mental health needs
The Utility Fund’s $9,334,170 in projected budget expenditures mark a 13.5 percent increase over fiscal year 2018-19. There are no rate increases citywide, though there are some fee increases. The City is creating two new positions that will be funded by the Utility Fund, along with continuing meter replacement projects throughout town, the oversizing of utilities at the soon-to-begin construction Cambridge Park, a series of $475,000 water improvements along Hillsborough Road - the site of considerable new construction activity - the purchase of a new excavator, and the debt service for the recently-improved series of improvements at the water facility along Corrigidor Drive.
A public hearing has been set for June 3, at which time members of the public will be able to weigh in on the proposed budget. The City Council will approve the budget at that session.