Permits and fees related to construction expected to increase by 20 percent

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Since 2012 the Town of Black Mountain has placed a priority on decreasing total debt. That trend is likely to continue when the board of aldermen meets at 6 p.m. on Monday, June 12, for a public hearing on the proposed budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year.

The budget, which is likely to pass, continues that trend with an early payoff of the Lakeview Pool set for August. Construction throughout the town is expected to continue to boom in the upcoming fiscal year, according to the proposal.

As of 2012 Black Mountain’s total debt was slightly over $5 million. That has decreased steadily with the adoption of each budget since. The 2017-18 budget proposal aims to reduce the town’s total debt by $511,000 to just over $2.5 million.

“Increasing fund balance and decreasing debt services has been the board’s priority for a number of years,” said town manager Matt Settlemyer. “Five years ago the town had 14 debt service items on the books. We now have five and if this budget passes we’ll only have four remaining.”

During workshops to discuss the proposed budget the board chose to pay off the remaining $220,000 of debt associated with the Lakeview Pool, eliminating over $25,000 in interest payments over the next seven years. .

“Every year (since 2012) we’ve made an effort to pay off a debt early,” Settlemyer said. “That’s what the pool is this year, it’s our early payoff.”

While the town’s debt has decreased the town’s fund balance has been on an upward trend. As of June 30, 2017, the final day of the fiscal year, the fund balance will be over $4.7 million, an increase of $116,000 from last year and around $1 million from 2012.

Sales tax revenue for the town is expected to increase by just over 4 percent, due to an upward tend in that source of revenue in recent years, according to Settlemyer.

Permits related to construction are predicted to increase by over 20 percent after total construction value in the town topped the $30 million mark in the 2016-17 fiscal year. That growth, while sometimes challenging, is a sign of a thriving town, according to Settlemyer.

“I think that’s a good reflection of what’s happening economically in Black Mountain,” he said. “And obviously people can drive around and see all of the construction that’s happening. The anticipated increase in those permit fees is a good indication of the growth in town, which I think is healthy.”

The rate of growth shows "the desire of people to live here and work here," Settlemyer added.

Property tax rates, the chief revenue generator for the town, will decrease slightly, due to Buncombe County property reappraisal in January that reflected a significant increase in real property values for much of the county.

State law requires municipalities to publish a tax rate that produces revenue equal to that of the current fiscal year if the appraisal had not taken place. That revenue-neutral tax rate for Black Mountain was calculated to be 33.25 cents per $100 of valuation, down from 37.5 last year.

“That (rate) is slightly below what is truly a revenue-neutral rate, which is 33.29 cents,” Settlemyer said. “Historically we keep the tax ending by a quarter basis so it has a logical progression.”

The formula used to determine the rate can be found in the budget message on the town’s website (townofblackmountain.org).

The proposed overall budget is just over $11 million, up 6.31 percent from a year ago. That increase is a reflection of the additional debt payoff and capital improvements, according to Settlemyer.

“The board’s priority is to use the taxpayer’s money wisely,” Settlemyer said. “Not to take on additional debt, but to pay off debt that we’re able to pay off and free up resources for future capital projects. Last year we were able to purchase a fire truck without taking on additional debt.”

Capital projects included in the 2017-18 proposed budget include $100,000 for improvements to the interior of the Carver Community Center and $40,000 for upgrades at the Lakeview Center for Active Aging and Lake Tomahawk.

The fifth and final phase of sidewalks on Montreat Road, for which the town will be reimbursed through the Powell Bill, will connect Black Mountain to the Montreat gate for pedestrians.

“We anticipate finishing those this year,” Settlemyer said. “And those sidewalks are typically done earlier in the fiscal year, around August or September I’d anticipate having that section complete.”

The town also anticipates work on Phase II of the Riverwalk Greenway to begin during the upcoming fiscal year, according to Settlemyer. The one-and-a-half-mile trail will connect the existing Riverwalk Greenway (behind Bi-Lo) to the existing Flat Creek Greenway while also allowing access to the west side of N.C. 9.

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