Black Mountain approves town’s budget

Fred McCormick

Black Mountain home owners will continue paying Buncombe County’s second-lowest tax rate, thanks to the 2015-16 budget that town aldermen approved last week.

The ad valorem tax rate will remain at 37.5 cents per $100 valuation of taxable property. Property taxes are the town’s largest source of revenue. The new fiscal year beings July 1.

Forty-one percent of property tax revenue will go toward public safety, with the police department receiving 22 cents of every dollar generated. The fire department will receive 19 percent of the tax revenue.

The $10,230,433 budget is up 3.73 percent from last year’s and continues the trend of reducing the town’s debt by dedicating $596,226 toward that purpose.

“Our debt is down $1,872,000” since 2012, alderman Don Collins said.

At the conclusion of the 2011-12 fiscal year the town’s total debt was $5,193,543. With the passing of the current budget, the town will reduce its overall debt to $3,321,543.

Another trend reflected in the approved budget is the town’s continued focus on maintaining what town manager Matt Settlemyer classified as a “healthy fund balance.”

Town staff initially thought about $150,000 would be added to the general fund balance this year. But more may be added, something that won’t be known until the end of June.

“I think we’re comfortable now saying there is a $250,000 increase to the fund balance,” Settlemyer told the board.

The town anticipates an 8.9 percent increase in sales tax collections and a 26 percent increase in permits and fees associated with construction.

Capital improvements scheduled for the fiscal year include replacing two police vehicles (budgeted for $65,400), as well as $100,000 to replace around half of the windows at Carver Community Center, which houses the town’s recreation and parks department. Last year’s budget paid for a new roof at the center, a renovation meant to reduce energy costs.

“Even though we have it as a capital improvement project, I always like to refer to it as an annuity,” Mayor Mike Sobol said of the improvements to the center. “When you put money into an annuity, you get a payback each year. So we’ve put all of this money into this annuity, this building as improvements, and we’re getting a payback through the savings.”

The approved budget includes $100,000 for the third phase of sidewalk construction along Montreat Road.