Apex budget calls for steady tax rate

aramos@newsobserver.comMay 31, 2013 

  • If you go

    Apex residents can weigh in on the town’s proposed budget during a hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Apex Town Hall, 73 Hunter St.

— Residents likely won’t see a property-tax hike in the coming year, but they will probably pay a little more to have their trash and recycling picked up.

Under a proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, Apex would pass on a rate increase from its contractor, Waste Industries. That means a 2 percent increase on recycling and trash fees – a residential user’s monthly bill would go from $15.96 to $16.15.

The proposed budget calls for maintaining the town’s property tax rate at 39 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Spending is expected to increase from $34.8 million to $36 million. The increase includes cost-of-living raises and merit pay for employees, seven new employee positions and $1.5 million in capital improvements.

“I’m certainly pleased our town manager was able to give us a balanced budget showing some increases in revenue without having to raise our tax rate,” said Mayor Keith Weatherly. “We’re able to maintain good programs, continue to support police and fire and expand our parks.”Three of the proposed new positions would be in the parks and recreation department. Workers are needed to manage the newest town parks, such as Seagroves Farm neighborhood park, the Hunter Street dog park and the Apex Nature Park.

The 160-acre nature park and Seymour Athletic Fields at 2600 Evans Road are expected to open in February. The site will include two soccer fields, an 18-hole disc golf course, a 300-seat amphitheater, two playgrounds, eight tennis courts, a 1.5-acre dog park and three miles of trails.

Spending plans

During the recession, Apex leaders put off several maintenance projects, including replacing vehicles and buying software upgrades. This year, the town plans to spend about $1.5 million to close the gap in needs from its general fund balance.

It’s the second year of a three-year $4.5 million capital-improvement plan.

Among the proposed projects for the upcoming year are $100,000 for greenway and playground repairs; $400,000 for a new fire engine; $205,00 to make repairs to Fire Station 2; and $180,000 for the design of a new public safety station off Apex Barbecue Road.

Apex officials are anticipating some spikes in income. Revenue from property taxes is expected to grow by $760,000; sales-tax distribution from the state is expected to increase by about $575,000; Powell Bill funding is expected to grow by $50,000; and residential permit fees are expected to increase by about $150,000.

Absent from this year’s budget is a new business-permit fee. During their annual retreat in March, Town Council members talked about implementing a program in order to better track existing and new businesses.

But several council members said they worried about placing an additional financial burden on businesses. Town Manager Bruce Radford said the town plans to move forward with the permit service, but on a free basis.

As part of the program, the town will create a database of businesses in Apex. The goal is to help the police department, first responders and the planning department have a better idea of the names and locations of local businesses, Radford said.

EMS questions remain

The town is expected to pick up the tab in another area as well: Apex EMS.

Wake County will no longer pay for certain Apex EMS positions, according to the town’s draft budget. The county collects EMS revenue on Apex’s behalf.

County Manager David Cooke told town leaders in August that the county would not fund an Apex EMS chief or administrative assistant positions. That’s a cost of about $150,000, according to the latest estimates.

If Wake County took over the nine-member Apex EMS unit, there would be no need for a chief or assistant, so the county is unwilling to pay.

Wake County plans to give the town about $1 million. That’s short of the $1.2 million the town requested and $1.15 million recommended in the Wake County Budget Manual.

The Apex Town Council has yet to decide the next step in the issue, Radford said.

Ramos: 919-460-2609

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