The Valdese Town Council is expected to vote tonight on a budget for the upcoming year that includes hikes in recycling and water and sewer rates.
But what the budget doesn’t include has gotten some residents voicing objection to the town’s proposed 2020-21 budget.
The proposed budget doesn’t include any funding for the library branch in the town. While the branch is part of the county library system, historically, the town has given funds toward its operation. The current 2019-20 budget included $40,000, which was down from $50,000 in previous years.
Burke County Public Library Director Jim Wilson said in an email to county officials that making adjustments to account for the loss in funding could include a reduction in staffing and funds for books/programming for the Valdese site. Reducing staffing also would likely require a reduction in hours to five days and one night a week, Wilson said in the email.
The library branch’s usual schedule before the COVID-19 pandemic was six days and two nights a week.
Burke County’s 2020-21 budget, which was recently approved, does not make up for the loss in funding. County Manager Bryan Steen said commissioners adopted the budget with the expectation that Valdese would include $50,000 for library funding.
Some Valdese residents have called for the council to fund the library fully in the town’s 2020-21 budget when the council votes on it Monday night.
Some have suggested taking money from other departments since some events have been cancelled due to the pandemic.
Town officials have said it’s been a difficult budget, with the pandemic causing unforeseen impacts to revenues such as occupancy and sales taxes.
Town Manager Seth Eckard, in an email to Wilson, said if sales tax revenue comes in higher than projected by March, the council would like to see the donation partially or fully restored.
Mayor Pro Tem Susan Stevenson told The News Herald she values the library and the importance it has in the community.
“However, it is necessary that we have enough funds to maintain our essential services,” Stevenson said.
She said they’ve had to cut capital projects, even for some equipment for the fire department, and they were not able to include a cost-of-living raise for employees.
“The library is the Burke County library system and our Valdese citizens already pay Burke County taxes that go to this system,” Stevenson said. “Our Valdese contribution has always been very generous. But I just don’t feel it is safe to make a contribution right at this time.
The proposed budget keeps the property tax rate at 54.5 cents per $100 of property value with an operating and capital budget of $11,378,024.
It calls for an increase of $1 a month to residents for recycling and a 4 percent increase in utility rates.
Inside residential customers will see their water rates increase, for the first 3,000 gallons, from $32.80 to $34.15, and each additional 1,000 gallons go from $3.25 to $3.40. Likewise, sewer rates for the first 3,000 gallons for inside residential customers will go from $6.95 to $7.25, with each additional 1,000 gallons increasing from $2.35 to $2.45.
The Valdese Town Council will meet at 6 p.m. in the council chambers of town hall Monday.
Sharon McBrayer is a staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 828-432-8946.
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