The Gastonia City Council held a public hearing last night on the City’s proposed 2019-2020 budget. The proposal would decrease the City’s tax rate from 53 cents per $100 valuation of assessed property to 52 cents, the first decrease in eight years. Property tax bills for some taxpayers may rise because of Gaston County’s recent property revaluation, but City Manager Michael Peoples emphasized that the budget includes no City fee increases in an effort to offset some of the impact of higher tax bills that some citizens face.
Included in the proposed City budget:
- No increase in electric, water, sewer, solid waste or stormwater fees
- $1.3 million for transportation projects and street improvements
- $3 million to replace aging technology, equipment and vehicles used by Police, Fire, Public Works and other departments
- $1.3 million for maintenance of and repairs to City buildings and park facilities
- A state-mandated $740,000 increase in retirement funding for employees, $1.3 million to cover rising employee health insurance costs, and $1.7 million to provide competitive compensation for employees
“We continue to look for ways to reduce operating costs,” Peoples said, but he noted that the City faces budgetary pressures related to maintaining a qualified, customer-focused workforce. “Employee-related costs will continue to be the most significant challenge to our budget,” he said. “Health care costs rise annually and retaining experienced employees requires competitive salaries and benefits.”
Peoples also outlined how the proposed budget reflects City priorities. “Maintenance of our infrastructure, such as streets, water, sewer, electric and City facilities is often taken for granted, but it’s critically important and also commands significant resources.”
Another area of emphasis is increasing the City’s economic vitality. “Supporting economic development that produces jobs and capital investment by the private sector is important as we decide where and when to spend our limited resources,” Peoples said. “Quality economic development stimulates additional jobs and helps to grow our revenues and tax base.”
The City Council is to adopt the budget on June 4 and it will take effect July 1.