Milton Town Council will hold a public hearing at 6:30 p.m., Monday, Aug. 21, at Milton library on the town’s $3.5 million fiscal year 2024 budget.
The public hearing is the next step in the budget process and likely the last major discussion before council votes Monday, Sept. 11. Technically, council has until Saturday, Sept. 30, to vote on the budget before it goes into effect Sunday, Oct. 1.
Council had its first chance to discuss the budget Aug. 7. Most of the conversation was centered around approving funding for the various town departments: police, water, streets, and parks and recreation.
However, for the public, the major item will likely be a proposed 9% property tax increase from $0.295 per $100 of assessed value to $0.324 per $100 of assessed value. This comes on the heels of a 17% increase in the fiscal year 2023 budget. The town previously increased property taxes in fiscal years 2015 and 2021, with taxes going up by 11% in 2015 and by 5% in 2021.
Mayor John Collier and Town Manager Kristy Rogers have said the increase is to keep services at the level residents have grown accustomed to. Collier said for years the town did not address the rising costs of services with smaller, incremental increases, which has necessitated doing these larger increases now. The increase is expected to bring the property tax revenue to $1.67 million, which serves as one of the largest revenue generators for the town, in addition to realty transfer taxes.
With the increase, the budget is balanced with a $3,000 surplus, but Rogers had to pull from the town’s reserves and utilize realty transfer tax revenue to balance it. For years, Rogers has tried to wean the town off transfer tax revenue for the general fund because it is so unpredictable.
Other fee increases include raising the police staffing fee, which is charged when a person or entity requests or requires a police officer on site to staff an event. That fee is proposed to rise from $50 to $65. Also, trash collection is slated to go from $63.50 per quarter to $70 per quarter. At its Aug. 7 meeting, council unanimously approved a new three-year contract with GFL to handle trash and recycling services. The budget also calls for instituting a $100 fee for emergency public works call-ins.
By utilizing reserves, the town is able to have a small capital improvement plan, with projects including street resurfacing and sidewalk repair, fixing the roofing and siding at town hall, replacing the deck boards at Governor’s Walk and Magnolia Street, purchasing two police patrol vehicles, repairs to the Memorial Park gazebo and starting a new brick paver program there, and the purchase of a utility body truck.
The town supplemented its own funding with grant funding for the street and sidewalk projects, and the police cars. In addition, the town will begin work this fiscal year on a new well and treatment facility on land the town owns on Federal Street next to the Rails to Trails. That project was funded by federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act. All told, capital projects comprise 9% of the town’s budget.
Council to meet on Granary funds before budget
While it was not discussed Aug. 7, as it is not part of this year’s budget, town council will discuss what to do with up to $5 million in funds to be raised by the special development district for the Granary at Draper Farm development. The town is due to get those funds in three installments, with the first coming in 2024. The money must be spent within three years. Council will hold a workshop meeting at 4:30 p.m., Monday, Aug. 21, at Milton library to discuss how to use the funding.