HICKORY, N.C. -- The City of Hickory's Fiscal Year 2011-2012 recommended budget totals $83,477,676 for all City operations, capital improvements, and debt service requirements for the upcoming year. This budget, as recommended, is 2.04 percent less than the current year’s budget and maintains the current 50 cent property tax rate. If approved by the Hickory City Council, this would be the 17th consecutive year without an increase in the property tax rate.
Additionally, there will be no increases to any water rates, sewer rates, solid waste fees, recreation fees, privilege licenses, fire inspection permits, or any other City tax, fee, or rate. The City Manager’s FY 2011-2012 Recommended Budget seeks to hold the line across the board.
Hickory City Manager Mick Berry presented his FY 2011-2012 recommended budget to the media on May 18. Hickory City Council will hold a public hearing on the FY 2011-2012 recommended budget on Tuesday, June 7 at 7 p.m. during its regular Hickory City Council meeting at the Julian G. Whitener Municipal Building in Council Chambers.
The proposed General Fund budget will decrease by 0.39 percent from the current year, and even though it includes no increases to any City charges, taxes, fees or rates, and City services will remain at their current level of operation in all departments. The proposed Water and Sewer Fund budget will increase by 1.16 percent over the current year, but again, water rates and sewer rates will not increase.
The county wide revaluation of property resulted in a loss of $78,000,000 in value. A one cent tax rate increase would be required to make up for that loss of value.
“We have anticipated this revenue loss and have taken significant steps over the last several years to align ongoing operating costs with recurring revenues,” said Berry. “Because of this prudent and proactive budgeting, the City is in strong financial condition with solid reserves in the General Fund and the Water and Sewer Fund. This financial strength enables me to recommend a balanced budget with no tax, fee or rate increases.”
Berry added that his two areas of concern are the uncertainty of fuel costs and the State of North Carolina’s budget. He continues to work on contingency plans if fuel costs do not go down and if the State takes additional funds from the City.
“Fuel prices must continue to drop or changes will be needed in operations and the State of North Carolina must not balance their budget on the backs of City residents,” Berry said.
Hickory’s FY 2011-2012 recommended budget does not explicitly include coworker performance pay increases due to both the uncertainty of the State’s budget, and the need for additional data on how the City will end the current fiscal year with property tax revenue collections, and sales tax revenues. The City’s workforce has not had a pay increase since July 2008.
“We will continue to monitor decisions made on the State budget,” Berry added. “If the State does not take additional funds from local governments, and if sales tax revenues and property tax revenue collections bode well, we will reevaluate the possibility of granting performance pay increases during FY 2011-2012 for employees that meet or exceed their job requirements.”
“City of Hickory employees are to be commended for their hard work and dedication to ensure that quality services are provided to the citizens of Hickory,” Berry said. “We continue to ask them to do more with less, and it is because of their tenacity and commitment that the City continues to get through this unprecedented economic crisis.”
The budget also works in tandem with the Hickory City Council’s 2011-2012 Priorities and Action Plan, which was approved on first reading at the May 17 Council meeting.
The three objectives of the plan include:
- Invest in revitalization efforts for specific areas and existing buildings.
- Invest in properties and partnerships to spur new development at targeted locations.
- Position Hickory to become a major technology hub for the Southeastern United States.
The five priorities derived from the objectives include:
- Economic Growth and Transportation
- Natural Environment and Quality of Life
- Operational Excellence
- Vision and Leadership
- Communication and Marketing
Copies of Hickory’s recommended budget for the upcoming fiscal year and Hickory City Council’s 2011-2012 Priorities and Action Plan are available for public review at the Ridgeview Branch Library, Patrick Beaver Memorial Library, and in the City Clerk’s Office in the Julian G. Whitener Municipal Building. The budget is also available online at www.hickorygov.com.