Town of Clayton Budget Includes An 18 Percent Property Tax Increase

Former councilman speaks against large tax increases
Water and sewer fees up 15.8%
$18 million Parks & Rec Bond being considered in November 2019

A public hearing was held Monday night on the Town of Clayton’s proposed new 2019-2020 fiscal year budget. Clayton is Johnston County’s largest municipality with approximately 20,000 residents.

Town Manager Adam Lindsay says his budget maintains fiscal responsibility while maintaining excellent service delivery. But with that service and millions of dollars in capital improvements there will be higher costs.

The $29,789,491 spending plan is up 14 percent over the 2018-19 budget.  Clayton’s property tax rate is currently 58 cents per $100 valuation.  With the 2019 countywide property revaluation, the revenue neutral tax rate for Clayton is 49 cents.  However, Lindsay kept the tax rate of 58 cents unchanged, which is equal to a 18 percent increase in Clayton’s property tax rate.

For an average Clayton homeowner with a $200,000 residence, that’s equal to a $180.00 per year increase in your property taxes.

Former Councilman Bob Ahlert was one of two people who spoke against the budget.  Ahlert and Glen Laurel resident Bart Bloom, both retired and on fixed incomes, questioned the impact of the budget on property tax bills with the revaluation – each pointing out that holding the tax rate of 58 cents – not at revenue neutral just like Johnston County who is considering an 11.4% property tax increase – will mean large increases on town and county tax bills.

Lindsay says about $15.5 million of the budget revenue is from property taxes while another $4.5 million is from sales taxes. Sale tax collections are projected to increase 4.7% during the next fiscal year.

14 New Positions
Departments requested a total of 37 new positions, but only 14 were recommended by the manager. Full-time positions include 9 firefighters, 1 building inspector, 1 storm water engineer, and 1 recreation program coordinator.  Two part-time positions recommended by the manager are for an engineer and a substitute library associate.  Combined, the 14 new positions add $870,612 to the budget this year.

Town of Clayton employees would see a 2 percent cost of living increase in July, plus an additional 1 percent cost of living increase in January 2020.

The Town will absorb a projected 7 percent increase in health insurance premiums for employees, which is anticipated to rise from $543.64 per month to $581.69. The Town pays for 100 percent of the cost.  The budget includes a 1.2% increase in employer contributions to the NC Retirement Fund to 9%. The law enforcement retirement contribution will increase to 9.7 percent.

Funds are included for a comprehensive review and update to Clayton’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO).

Per Lot Development Fee Increasing From $750 To $2,000
Developers will be paying more. Currently there is either a $750 fee or a requirement to dedicate open space for each new single family lot.  Beginning July 1st, developers will no longer be allowed to dedicate open space land to offset the fee.  The per-lot fee will increase to $1,000 on July 1st, $1,500 on Jan. 1, 2020 and $2,000 per lot on July 1, 2020.

Water, Sewer, Trash Rates
Water and sewer rates will increase an average of 15.8 percent.  The average in-town customer that consumes 5,000 gallons of water per month is now paying $73.85 for water and sewer. On July 1st, the average cost will increase to $85.57 per month.   The water and sewer rate increase is part of a multi-year plan to increase rates to help pay for a new wastewater treatment facility.

The solid waste fee for trash collection will increase from $18.07 to $20.50 on July 1.  All Star Waste, which collects trash for the Town of Clayton, will also begin loose leaf collecting, which had been handled by town employees. The $2.43 increase covers loose leaf collecting and rising recycling costs.

$6.29 Million For 8 Projects
Funding is included for 8 projects totaling $6,298,000. They include $3.1 million for continued work on Phase II of Sam’s Branch Greenway, $1.6 million for the Harmony Playground & Facilities; $550,000 for continued work and expansion of Town Hall Parking; $500,000 for the Payton Drive Extension, $70,000 for an ADA Town Infrastructure Transition Plan, and $69,000 for sidewalk improvements.

With tremendous growth comes challenges like a growing budget, Lindsay says. “We have increased demand in our streets, parking and essential services like fire and police. We won’t to be able to manage expenses and to meet those needs. The budget meets the councils priorities they want to provide to the community.”

Lindsay says Clayton still has a small town feel but is moving to a medium-size community.

Due to public concerns about the higher taxes in the budget, the council will take a closer look at Lindsay’s spending plan in a special called meeting on Wednesday, May 29th at 10:30AM. The meeting is open to the public.  The Council has until the end of June to adopt their budget.

$18 Million Parks & Rec Bond
The Clayton Town Council is also considering a multi-million dollar Parks & Rec bond referendum to go before Clayton voters in November 2019.

If approved, the bond would pay for more than $18 million in expansions and upgrades, including $4.47 million at Municipal Park, $3.45 million Clayton Community Center (Phase 2 and 3), $1.23 million for the Community Park upgrade, and $3.92 million in improvements and expansion at the East Clayton Community Park.  If approved, the Parks & Rec Bond would not require an additional tax rate increase.

“There is a tremendous demand for programs and activities,” Lindsay said, adding that the bond would allow Clayton leaders improve and expand existing parks which are in tremendous demand.