FRANKLINTON -- Town commissioners approved a budget that reduces the tax rate, banks on continued growth of the tax base and seeds downtown development.
Town Manager Gregory Bethea presented the board with a $2.1 million spending plan that reduces the tax rate from 72 cents per $100 of valuation to a rate of 71 cents.
Bethea said the reduction was possible because of 20 percent growth in the tax base, coupled with an expectation of continued growth and a reduction in capital expenses in 2020-21.
"We believe that's the beginning of a process of reducing the tax rate so that we become more competitive for development that occurs," Bethea told commissioners during the June 16 meeting.
"We intend to try to increase the tax base and that fits very well with the conversation we were just having [about the need to procure water allocations to support residential and business development].
Beyond the tax rate, Bethea informed the board and residents about how the 2020-21 budget will bolster goals outlined by the town, including spurring downtown development, strengthening its workforce and improving its roads.
The town intends to create a career ladder program for employees, establishing training and benchmarks for staff that would make them more independent.
By doing so, Bethea said, the town can better tie pay increases to merits, rather than across-the-board, cost-of-living increases.
"... We're developing a career ladder so that we are rewarding employees for professional development, rather than cost-of-living increases that only reward folks for existence, rather than for excellence.
"We'll be, in the coming year, placing a lot of emphasis on the quality of services that we're providing."
Bethea said the budget also calls for the town to continue supporting downtown development through its facade grants, work to improve sidewalks and the streetscape.
"In 2021," Bethea said, "we've got another $100,000 that we'll be using, again, to couple with private investment.
"We're not doing it outside of private investment," he said. "We're trying to spur those things on."
Finally, Bethea said, the budget reflects the town's commitment to improving its roads.
"One of the first things the board was most interested in when I first got here was to improve the roadways and we invested about $750,000 in repaving," Bethea said. "The idea is that over the next 10 years, that we'll be able repave all of our streets and that will mean we'll need about $2 million in funding to be able to do that, so we'll need to be able to do that with a couple more loans as we do it in 2023, 2025 and 2026.
"We think with that, we'd be able to get all the streets done," he said. "Again, that's very dependent upon there being improvement in our tax base to help pay for those improvements."
The budget was approved by unanimous decision.