2015-03-20 / Local News

Tax increase included in first reading of Blacksburg budget

By JOE L. HUGHES II
Ledger Staff Writer

A new fiscal year will soon commence in Blacksburg, welcomed once again with a no frills budget.

Taxes could again be on the rise for residents of the Iron city after town officials approved first reading of the new budget. Presented last week before Blacksburg Town Council, the spending plan comes to $3,077,825, and calls for an increase in the millage rate to 165.0 mills, or $1.65 for every $1,000 of assessed value.

Part of the tax increase is a one-time surcharge that allows the town to recoup $61,357 lost during the previous fiscal year. This year’s budget total is $89,760 more than last year’s budget.

“This year’s budget is abouta3percentincrease from last year’s,” said Blacksburg Town Administrator Trudy Martin. “A good reason for the increase has a lot to do with inflation. But it’s definitely a struggle, especially for the town.”

Blacksburg is expecting $1.57 million in revenue this upcoming fiscal year. Town officials forecast water revenues to bring in nearly $1.51 million.

Among the highlights in the spending plan is a 2 percent cost-of-living raise for town employees, their first in five years.

“Of course, we wish we could do more than that,” Martin said. “But it has been almost five years since we’ve been able to offer it, so now is as good a time as any.”

Also, the municipality has proposed purchasing a police cruiser to replace one leaving the fleet, as well as a utility truck. “This is merely about attrition and changing out an older vehicle for a newer one,” the Blacksburg town administrator said.

While expecting most of the spending plan to pass without much issue, Martin said there remains much contention regarding the delegation of Hospitality Tax funds.

This year, town officials upped the ante to $220,000 due to an uptick in H-Tax collections. According to Martin, approximately half of the pot will go to help pay for the nearly completed Blacksburg Museum of History and Civic Center.

Blacksburg officially accepted a $520,269 price tag last July from low bidder Sossamon Construction. The multipurpose facility will contain the town’s 1941 fire engine, museum and community meeting room.

H-Tax funds will be necessary in another way though, the municipality needing to purchase and install a restroom area at the recently renovated Church Street outdoor basketball court. The cost is in the area of $52,000, Martin said.

“If we go with the recommendation of the (Cherokee County Recreation District) in purchasing a restroom, that is how much it will cost,” she said. “Unfortunately, it takes up nearly all the money available, unlike in previous years where we could spread it around a tad bit more.

“I still think the budget will get passed, but there will likely be some revisions to Hospitality Tax money.”

Second reading of the spending plan is scheduled for March 31 at 7 p.m. Town residents can voice their approval or lack thereof at a hearing just prior to the meeting at 6:45 p.m.

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