Morrisville Town Council gives OK for fee hike

twanbaugh@newsobserver.comJune 6, 2014 

— Despite protests from some business owners and developers about an increase to the town’s stormwater fee, members of the Morrisville Town Council say they want to move forward with the fee hike.

Under a proposal, the town would levy a stormwater fee of $25 per 2,800 square feet of space – a $2 increase from the current fee.

The extra revenue would allow the town to hire a stormwater engineer, and the town would conduct stormwater inspections. That means businesses would not have to pay for third-party inspections.

“If I was a business owner, I would be pretty happy with that tradeoff,” Mayor Mark Stohlman said.

The Town Council met Thursday to weigh in for the first time about Morrisville’s proposed $27.1 million budget for the coming year. The spending plan calls for holding the property tax rate steady at 39 cents per $100 in valuation.

Overall, council members said they didn’t have major issues with the spending plan. They are expected to adopt a budget later this month.

Council members said a big issue facing the town is the loss of revenue from privilege taxes levied on businesses. A new law will limit the tax starting in July, and the tax will be prohibited altogether in July 2015.

Morrisville expects to collect about $860,000 from privilege taxes this year.

Gov. Pat McCrory vowed to help towns find ways to make up for the lost revenue during the recent annual meeting with the N.C. League of Municipalities.

“We’d rather not be in this position, but we are,” Councilman TJ Cawley said.

To cope with lost funds in the meantime, Morrisville will likely no longer offer town employees professional development opportunities.

Cawley said that caused some concern for him, however, because professional development can help town workers become more efficient at their jobs.

“We should invest in our staff,” he said.

Town leaders also talked about the possibility of increasing the town’s license fee for each vehicle from $10 to $15. The increase would generate $85,000 for road maintenance, they said.

Transportation has long been a major issue in Morrisville, as many roads clog during rush-hour traffic with Research Triangle Park commuters.

“The streets definitely need repair,” Councilwoman Vicki Scroggins-Johnson said.

Property owners in four Morrisville neighborhoods pay an extra 10 cents in property taxes for road services. The neighborhoods are private roads, but the extra tax means the town maintains them.

Residents in those areas won’t see an increase to that extra tax.

Other budget highlights include:

• Hiring five new employees

• Giving employees a merit pay increase of an average of 3.4 percent

• Allocating about $30,000 to audio record Town Council sessions and making the recordings available to the public. Eventually, the town plans to video record council meetings.

Some council members said they wondered whether residents would actually tune in, though.

“I have my doubts that people will take advantage of it,” Councilman Kris Gardner said.

Wanbaugh: 919-460-2605; Twitter: @TaylorWanbaugh

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