While the Town of Boone held the line on the budget in the wake of the change in the countys distribution of state sales tax revenues last year, Boone Town Manager Greg Young's last budget includes a proposed five-cent property tax increaseand may become a 6-cent increase before all is said and the budget enacted. Young said the impact of the loss of nearly $2 million in local sales tax revenue, high fuel costs and other expenses are the reasons for his call for a tax increase. But council members are hearing requests that might push beyond his recommendation, with Boone Fire department, with a new station now up and operating, requesting four additional positions, and the Boone Police department requesting one and a half telecommunication positions. Boone Fire Chief Jimmy Isaacs said that rural fire tax revenues could provide for two of the needed firefighter positions, and the council agreed to consider the increased tax hike for the other two fire staffers and the telecommunications staff. With a six-cent increase approved, Boone's ad valorem tax rate would increase to 43 cents per $100 valuation. Young originally recommended a 3 percent cost-of-living pay increases and a 2 percent merit increase for town employees, but council members scaled that back the cost-of-living increase of 2 percent to accommodate the additional staff positions in the budget.
Also recommended is a 50-cent increase in water rates as part of several years of incremental increases anticipating debt service payments on the town's water intake project.
But as the town heads toward a public hearing on the budget Monday, there are still some projects that are being considered; Mayor Andy Ball is hoping for the addition of a half-time position for a public information officer, looking to the possibility of the Boone Tourism Development Authority providing funding for the other half of the position in a dual role. That issue may come up today as the council is scheduled to meet with the Boone TDA board. One-time project funding in the budget includes:
- $115,000 to the Howard Street project
- $1.3 million to a reserve fund for a new government center;
- $100,000 for grants and subsidies to outside agencies;
- $285,000 for renovations to the Boone Police Department building;
- $100,000 for sidewalk expansion;
- $100,000 for paving and resurfacing town streets;
- $53,600 for two police vehicles;
- $50,000 for downtown streetscape improvements; and
- $100,000 for IT improvements, including a new town website.
- Written by Steve Frank