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Ahoskie hikes user fees

AHOSKIE – Town of Ahoskie residents will not spend more on taxes in 2005-06, but that doesn’t mean their pocketbooks won’t be affected.

In a special called meeting here Wednesday morning, Ahoskie’s Town Council approved the 2005-06 budget, one that does not include a hike in the ad valorum tax rate, but does incorporate changes in user fees.

The majority of the user fees – Zoning/Subdivision Site Activity, Acreage Fee Schedule, Capacity Fee Schedule and Building/Trade Permits – will affect those developing property.

However, the general public will notice a few minor changes – hikes in water/sewer and garbage pick-up fees. The water/sewer fees are increasing by $1 each while another 50 cents will be added to monthly bills for trash collection.

In addition, there are changes in store for those making water deposits. Under the new rate schedule, which took affect yesterday (July 1), water deposits for homeowners will rise by $25 ($50 to $75). Renters will pay an even higher rate – $200 for a deposit.

Late fees on water/sewer service will double to $10. Reconnection fees will rise from $15 to $75. Cut-off/on fees will increase to $25 (during working hours) and $50 (for nights, weekends and holidays).

Yard sale permits are also on the rise – $25 for residential areas and $50 for commercial sales. The old rates were $5 and $25 respectively.

Town Manager Tony Hammond said the hikes were necessary in order for Ahoskie to move forward with several improvement projects, namely the estimated $15 million expansion for the wastewater treatment plant.

&uot;Our cost share alone on that project is $1.5 million,&uot; Hammond said. &uot;There are only two ways we can generate revenues for projects such as that, either through user fees or increase taxes. Because we can’t raise taxes for use in the water/sewer enterprise fund, we must look at the only other option which is an increase in user fees.&uot;

Hammond stressed the hikes in user fees are earmarked for improvement projects and not for general operating expenses.

Meanwhile, Ahoskie’s ad valorum tax rate remains unchanged at 70 cents per $100 of value. That rate will allow Ahoskie to collect $1.32 million in property tax, which comprises roughly one-third the revenue of the town’s $3.84 million general fund budget for 2005-06.

Other main sources of revenue in which to operate the town will come from the local option sales tax ($570,000), garbage fees ($455,000) and the Utilities Franchise Tax ($160,000).

The Ahoskie Police Department ($1.11 million) will receive the lion’s share of the town’s operating expenses. The Ahoskie Fire Department ($594,000), Town Administration ($378,000), Environmental Protection ($396,000), Cultural/Recreational ($393,000), Streets ($308,000) and Public Works ($262,000) are the others receiving large shares of the expenditures.

Ahoskie’s Water and Sewer Enterprise Fund is budgeted at $1.48 million for 2005-06.

This year’s General Fund budget did not require any transfer of money from the town’s fund balance.

&uot;Tony and Evelyn (Howard, Ahoskie’s Town Clerk and Assistant Manager) are to be commended for a job well done on this year’s budget,&uot; said veteran Town Councilman O.S. &uot;Buck&uot; Suiter Jr. &uot;Their hard work shows in this budget, one that I feel the citizens will be pleased with, especially with no increase in property taxes.&uot;