Town Council Adopts Smithfield Budget For 2024-25

Following a hearing Tuesday evening that drew no comments from the public, the Smithfield Town Council adopted the new year’s budget put together as a result of several work sessions held since mid-March. But the vote was not unanimous.

Three of the seven council members – Marlon Lee, Steve Rabil, and Travis Scott – voted no. Councilman Scott had recommended reducing an electric-rate increase from 6% to 3% while Councilman Rabil had expressed support for restoring a $1,000 donation made this past year to Recovery Alive, a faith-based rehabilitation program operated out of Selma’s Temple City Church. Neither proposal was included in the final motion to adopt the budget.

Voting to adopt the budget were Councilmen David Barbour, John Dunn, Sloan Stevens, and Roger Wood. (Mayor Andy Moore was not required to vote.)

During Tuesday’s summary of the budget’s main points, Town Manager Mike Scott noted that the electric-rate increase along with a 6% hike in sewer charges and 55-cent increase in the yard-waste pickup fee would add $7.96 to each month’s utility bill for a typical residential customer.

The new budget, which takes effect July 1, retains the town’s current property-tax rate of 57 cents per $100 valuation for another year (countywide revaluation of real estate for taxation is scheduled to take effect in fiscal 2025-26). Mr. Scott noted in his summary that property-tax collections for Town Government have grown from $5.6 million in 2019 to almost $8.5 million this year.

He pointed out that state sales-tax allocations to the town have increased from $2.5 million in 2018 to $3.8 million this past year. “Our businesses are strong,” he said.

Of the new budget’s General Fund total of $19,882,512, the town manager noted, 47% pays for police and fire protection, 21% for Public Works (including garbage and trash collection and maintenance of buildings and grounds, streets and drainage), 14% for Parks and Recreation, and just 2% for debt service.

Left unresolved are across-the-board pay raises for town employees other than those in the Police Department, who are getting $10,000 raises. Manager Scott has budgeted a lump sum for higher salaries, but exactly how that money will be distributed is awaiting results of a consultant’s pay study that’s nearing completion.

VIEW the complete budget summary presented at Tuesday’s meeting

Grounds contract awarded against staff recommendation

JDR Lawn Care, based in Williamston, bid $50,400 on an annual contract for maintaining the grounds of town facilities, certain NCDOT rights-of-way, and other easements while Lane Lawn Care of Smithfield bid $52,228 for renewal of its contract. Public Works Director Lawrence Davis recommended JDR, the low bidder, which he said had gotten good reviews from reference checks. But Councilman Scott moved to renew the contract with Lane, and the rest of the council concurred. (Lane Lawn Care is the business of Mark Lane, who is presently chairman of the town’s Planning Board.)

Resolution asks state for naming of “Carl Lamm Highway”

The council adopted a resolution asking the N.C. Department of Transportation to name a section of I-95 between Smithfield and Four Oaks in honor of retired radio personality Carl Lamm, long-time owner of WMPM and later WTSB (the family has sold both since his retirement in 2019). The resolution notes that both the State of North Carolina and the United States Federal Highway System “have programs whereby sections of roadways may be named for leaders in their communities.” Mr. Lamm, who resides outside Four Oaks not far from I-95, is 97 years old.

Buffalo Road subdivision request tabled till July’s meeting

A developer’s plan for a 222-lot subdivision off Buffalo Road adjacent to the Bradford Park neighborhood first came before the Town Council in late January, but opposition from nearby residents along with concerns among council members about the plan’s housing density sent it back to the drawing board. Since then the proposal has appeared on agendas for several council meetings, and Tuesday it was tabled once again – this time until the council’s July 19 meeting.

Stormwater fee proposal unveiled; decision to come later

Planning Director Stephen Wensman presented results of a consultant’s study that has produced options for funding stormwater drainage projects through monthly fees on residences and businesses.

The basis for the fees, he explained, is Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU), which is a measure of the average amount of impervious surface on a single-family residential property. In Smithfield’s case, the study determined, that average is 4,111 square feet, Mr. Wensman reported.

If the town determines that $1 million is needed annually to fix Smithfield’s drainage issues, then a fee of $6 per month per ERU would be required. That’s the recommendation presented to the council, which took no action on it Tuesday.

That $6 monthly fee for the average household seems modest, but when the formula is applied to commercial and institutional properties (including some that are exempt from property taxation), the numbers get much bigger. Mr. Wensman presented a chart showing those fees could be as high as $32,236 for Carolina Premium Outlets, $30,219 for Johnston Community College, $24,131 for UNC Health Johnston, $8,849 for Lowes Home Improvement, and $7,281 for Pine Needle Square.

Mr. Wensman said stormwater fees are typically added to monthly utility bills but could possibly be added to annual property-tax bills. He provided a list of cities and towns in the region that presently impose such fees, including Raleigh, Fayetteville, Wilson, Knightdale, Holly Springs, Dunn, and Erwin.

“We gotta do something,” exclaimed Councilman Travis Scott. “We need guys out there cleaning out pipes.”

The council has been receiving more and more complaints in recent months about street and yard flooding after rainstorms no longer considered out of the ordinary. And there’s likely more to come, said Mayor Andy Moore, referring to stepped-up residential development now going on in Smithfield. “We’re gonna start seeing issues we haven’t seen before,” he concluded. 

-The Smithfield Weekly Sun


  1. “Tuesday evening that drew no comments from the public”

    It’s SAD that on one shows up for the meetings because they know the council wouldn’t listen and act on their comments anyway.

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