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City budget draws no opposition

Mount Airy residents apparently have no problem with the city’s proposed budget for the fast-approaching 2021-22 fiscal year, judging by comments — or the lack thereof — during a public hearing on the spending plan.

Only one person spoke at the hearing held before the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners Thursday night — and he was complimentary toward the package.

“I have read all 110 pages and I thought it was very well prepared,” Joseph Zalescik said of the preliminary budget that had been released by City Manager Barbara Jones on May 20. “It’s a very good snapshot of what Mount Airy does for the community.”

Zalescik, a West Devon Drive resident who owns a business called Station 1978 Firehouse Peanuts, focused on a few specifics when offering comments during the hearing.

He pointed out that Jones’ recommendation to leave intact the municipality’s present property tax rate of 60 cents per $100 of assessed valuaton will generate less than 50% of the revenues projected to operate the general fund portion of the budget.

Some localities rely on a much higher percentage of tax levies for that, Zalescik said.

This year’s budget-planning process reflects a periodic revaluation of property countywide which is said to have resulted in real estate values that are 7 to 9% higher compared to the present fiscal year that ends on June 30.

Zalescik said the value of his real estate has actually dropped and labeled the tax rate as effectively “flat.”

“So I think the budget is good,” said the hearing speaker, referring to the flat taxation while also including a pay raise for municipal employees. All full-time personnel are to get an increase of either 2% or $1,000 under the proposed spending plan, whichever is greater.

Although the property tax rate is proposed to remain at its present level, Mount Airy residents actually will pay more as a whole due to the revaluation.

The city manager has said the 60-cent rate is estimated to reap $7,321,200 for the next fiscal year that begins on July 1 for a general fund budget totaling $14.9 million.

That tax take is about $600,000 more than the same 60-cent tax rate generated for the present fiscal year before the revaluation, Jones has said.

In order to achieve the same revenue as the present fiscal year, before revaluation, the tax rate would need to be adjusted downward to 57 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

While state law requires localities to report that “revenue-neutral” comparison, they are not mandated to lower the property tax rate in response.

A budget workshop is planned Monday by city officials, which based on past practice ends with the budget being adopted.



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