Independence tax hike draws no opposition at hearing

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By Ben Bomberger, Reporter

INDEPENDENCE — Only two citizens turned out for a public hearing about a proposed tax increase on real estate in Independence — and neither was in opposition.

Town council held a public hearing Tuesday on a proposed 10.2 percent increase in the real estate tax rate from 12.7 cents to 14 cents per $100 valuation.

The increase will bring in an estimated $11,000 additional to the town and cover a $10,000 deficit the town faced after deciding not to pull funding from Independence Rescue Squad.

Charles Smith Cassell said he supported the increase and recommended how the town should use the extra revenue.

“I would like to encourage you all to use some of it for improvements on town property,” he said. “Specifically the maintenance area on U.S. 21 North.”

Cassell owns property that overlooks the maintenance shed and said he asked three years ago for the roof and building to be painted.

“The roof and guttering system is very rusty. And the wood is deteriorating.”

Cassell said the building needs a paint job, as does the generator that is showing rust “pretty bad.”

An exposed sewer line that runs down through Cassell’s land is showing rust and he commented about high grass and weeds that need to be mowed.

“I believe the town has an ordinance about letting grass grow up. If the town has an ordinanceee it should set an example to maintain the property.”

Cassell asked the town to remove all its “junk,” such as a large pile of storm windows and old piping.

Town employee Shane Allen said from the audience that some of the piping was used to replace damaged pipes.

Cassell continued to say that old scrap metal and such should be removed and that there is “a good opportunity to sell it.”

“The whole area just needs cleaning up,” he said.

Council Member Cecil Adams thanked Cassell and acknowledged, “You’re right.”

Citizen Nancy Lovelace asked council what the extra money raised by taxes would be used for.

Town Manager Kenneth Vaught said the increase was to support the rescue squad. “We had a deficit in the budget [after adding the money back].”

When asked how much the increase would bring in, Vaught said it was approximately $11,200, but he did not have exact numbers available.

Cassell asked how much money was in the upcoming budget for maintenance.

Vaught said there were various amounts — $3,000 in community development for maintenance, $3,500 in public works and $3,000 each for paving and sidewalk maintenance.

“In my opinionee you could spend $3,000 alone just on that building,” said Cassell. “If the town is not maintaining its property, you are cheating the taxpayers. That includes the equipment the town ownsee you might want to increase the tax even more.”

Vaught said specific funds were set aside in each department to cover maintenance for vehicles and equipment.

Council will hold a special meeting at 7 p.m. June 23 at Independence Volunteer Fire Department to vote on the proposed town budget.

The proposed budget of $1,198,630 includes an increase in taxes but no increase in water or sewer rates. The town’s utility budget is $827,940.