St. Pauls bumps tax rate

First Posted: 6/23/2014

ST. PAULS — Residents will see property taxes go up by 5 cents to help deal with an anticipated budget shortfall next year.

The St. Pauls Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Monday night to raise St. Pauls’ ad valorem rate to 65 cents per $100 valuation. meaning the owner of a $100,000 home will pay $650 a year in property taxes, up from $600 a year.

The tax increase would generate an additional $46,000 a year in revenue. The total expected revenue from taxes for the fiscal year that takes effect July 1 is $587,000.

The $2.4 million budget also increases water and sewer service fees by $1 a month.

Before the board adopted the budget, two St. Pauls residents expressed concern over the tax increase during a public hearing on the budget proposal.

Chris Jackson said the tax increase felt “like another kick in the gut.”

“A tax increase is the kind of thing that will drive people away from St. Pauls,” Jackson said. “I bet I am one of the last people to build a house in St. Pauls. It was one of the biggest mistakes I made. I would love to get rid of that house now. I’m tired of this.

“People like me are paying more and more and getting less and less,” Jackson said.

Larry McGougan said the town should look at increasing service fees that would affect all residents and not taxes that only affect property owners.

“I would say back off property taxes and find a way that lets everyone pay their fair share,” said McGougan, a local businessman. “It seems like people are getting these services for nothing.”

But town officials said the budget does increase the basic rate for water usage to $12 a month for a minimum of 2,000 gallons and the basic rate for sewer to $20 a month for a minimum use of 2,000 gallons.

Returned check fees increased to $35 and yard sale permits will increase to $15. The sign permit cost will increase to $50 for attached wall signs and $25 each for directory signs.

The garbage collection rate will remain at $15 a month.

“Larry had a valid point about raising fees and we’re basically doing that,” Town Administrator J. R. Steigerwald said.

The budget also calls for cutting travel expenses for training of commissioners and staff. Steigerwald estimated a yearly savings of about $6,000.

The budget does not include any major capital improvements or a cost-of-living increase for town employees.

“All the departments are pretty much at the same level as last year,” Steigerwald said. “We have also deferred any capital improvements that we would liked to have made.”

The budget does include the purchase of an $83,000 dump truck. The truck will be paid with Powell Bill money, town officials said, which is money the state provides towns that is raised by the gasoline tax.

Commissioner Jerry Weindel said the town did its best to deal with the budget shortfall without cutting staff or reducing services.

“If the numbers don’t match up, you’ve got to do something,” Weindel said. “There are people who say don’t raise taxes because you may scare people away. But they also don’t want to bring new business like Walmart in here. But I don’t know of any other way to bring money into town. The alternative is to cut people or services.”

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