Clayton Passes Budget With 3 Cents Tax Increase

Calling it one of the most challenging budgets in more than a decade, the Clayton Town Council unanimously voted to pass its 2018-2019 Fiscal Year Budget Monday night with no comment from the public.

The Clayton Town Council held a public hearing to gather input on the proposed budget which outlines spending from July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019. Town Manager Adam Lindsay presented highlights of his recommended balanced budget to the Council with total expenditures and revenues matching at $25,689,002 for the General Fund, $20,486,792 for the Water and Sewer Fund and $13,884,253 for the Electric Fund – for a total Town budget of $60,060,047.

“I’ve been here for almost 12 years, and this has been the most challenging budget,” said Mayor Pro Tem Michael Grannis. “None of us sitting here want to raise taxes or increase the budget, but none of us can deny this town is growing at a rapid rate – and there are pros and cons to that.  The Town Manager and staff have done an incredible job looking at what our actual needs are in the community and discerning them from all the other things that we would like to have. It’s difficult to sit here and pass a budget of this magnitude for me, because we’ve never done one that has been this extensive. But it’s for the betterment of this community. What we’re going to do is going to make a difference in this community and that’s what we’re about. We’re not going to be able to please everyone, but we’re making this Town a great place to live and work and to promote.”

Longtime Councilman Butch Lawter, who just won the Republican primary for District 7 of the Johnston County Commission, agreed.

“This has been a very tough decision, especially for someone who is looking to run on the ballot in November,” said Lawter. “But I’m not just here for easy decisions. This was a hard decision. I could have bowed out and voted against this, but I want to do the right thing and I think this is the right thing for the Town of Clayton. I don’t want to see my taxes go up any more than the next person, but this budget supports the economic, retail and commercial growth of our town. Good decisions now may allow future Council’s to look at reducing taxes and fees, but right now, I think this is the right decision for the Town and the Town’s future.”

The budget calls for 3-cent property tax increase for a total proposed rate of 58 cents for every $100 of property value. For the median home value in Clayton, that means about a $48 increase in the annual tax bill, equating to about $4 a month. One penny on the tax rate will generate approximately $184,000 in Clayton, with the proposed increase generating about $550,000 in new revenue to dedicate to needed immediate projects like fixing streets, increasing downtown parking, or improving parks. That revenue will become debt service payments toward some significant capital projects within three years.

Initial department requests came in $7 million over the predicted general fund revenues of $23.9 million. Department heads also requested 31 positions. During the past few weeks, staff worked to make tough choices on where to reduce, closing that $7 million gap and landing on requesting 12 positions with start dates that vary through the fiscal year.

“I never want to vote for a tax increase, but when we started this budget process it  became evident more needed to be done in this Town than just maintaining our status quo,” said Council Art Holder. “I’m proud of our town and want to stay that way. We would be going backwards if we didn’t pass this.”

“No one enjoys a tax increase, and as a tax-paying citizen and a life-long resident, I support this budget,” said Mayor Jody McLeod. “We cannot fall behind – the longer you wait on a streets improvement project, the more expensive it gets and the farther you fall behind. It will cost a lot more than 3 cents, if we wait. This is a tax increase that we will be able to see where the money is going. It’s the tax money that you can’t see where it’s going that I have a problem with. And now that we’re passing this, we need to produce results and we need to see those results fast. I have all the faith in this staff and team that we will produce those results.”

“This is a path for our staff and town leaders to lay a foundation for how Clayton is going to embrace moving from a small town to the medium-sized town that we are already becoming,” said Town Manager Adam Lindsay. “When I look back at my predecessor 20 years ago, this town was in dire financial straits, it was struggling to get out of a hole because the Town literally had no money. They righted the ship. With the Council’s guidance and leadership along the years, Clayton is now in good shape financially and ready to build the foundation for the next 20 years.”