Bob Urness, the Town of Wilkesboro’s director of finance and assistant town manager, presented his recommended fiscal 2021-22 budget Monday during the regular monthly meeting of the Wilkesboro Town Council at the Wilkes County Agricultural Center.

The proposed new budget, for the fiscal year starting July 1, leaves the property tax rate unchanged at 48 cents per $100 of property valuation. This equates to a $720 tax bill for a property owner who has real property of $150,000.

Urness said his budget totals $18.847 million for all town operations, capital improvements and debt service, which represents a 17.7% increase of the current budget.

The increase can be attributed to “an overall addition in personnel [eight new positions] and capital items to be purchased across all departments as well as a proposed capital project in the utility fund,” said Urness. “In addition to these increased needs, I would note that the prior year’s plan was produced with the intent of being conservative due to economic uncertainties” brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

The proposed budget includes expected revenues of $8.875 million in the general fund and $9.973 million in the water and sewer fund. Expenditures in both these funds would be the same dollar amount as revenues.

To fund long-term capital water projects, the town is planning to implement another 7.5% residential and commercial water and sewer rate hike on Oct. 1. Two such rate hikes occurred in 2020, each increasing the base residential bill by $1.03 a month.

Residential customers using an average of 5,000 gallons of water a month will receive a combined water and sewer bill of $29.58 per month, according to Urness. That compares to an average water/sewer bill of $80 across the state, he noted.

“With significant expansions on the horizon for both the water and wastewater treatment facilities, it is imperative that we be financially prepared for these capital projects,” Urness said.

Urness said a general fund balance appropriation of $565,000 to achieve a balanced budget would leave the town’s unassigned fund balance at $1.88 million, or 21.1% of the recommended general fund budget of $8.875 million. Town policy requires that it be 20-40%.

The budget proposes a 5% across-the-board cost of living pay hike for town employees. A 2.5% pay raise has been approved for town workers every year since 2016.

A public hearing on the proposed budget was called for at 5:30 p.m. on June 7 at town hall. The council must approve the new budget by July 1 to comply with state statutes.

Other matters

Also on Monday, the council unanimously:

• approved a new economic business incentives policy as written by the Wilkes Economic Development Corp. The same policy was adopted by the Town of North Wilkesboro on April 22 and is expected to be also permitted by the county;

• approved the rezoning of parcel 2203700 from R6 (general residential) to B3 (limited business), allowing applicant Cornerstone Church of Wilkes Inc. to lease space on the church campus to Elburn, Ill.-based Sun Ovens, a company owned by Tripp Critz of Millers Creek that makes solar cooking ovens;

• approved the amending of the town’s zoning ordinance to allow for mixed-use residential development in the town’s business zones. This would make more parcels available for commercial housing development.

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