Town Council now opposes trash fee

Published 5:44 pm Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Would opt for 3-cent tax hike

By Frederic Lee

Staff writer

A real estate tax increase is back on the table in lieu of having residents pay for trash pick-up as part of Smithfield’s proposed fiscal 2020 operating budget. 

Smithfield residents will have a chance to weigh in on the budget during a public hearing at the regular Town Council meeting June 4, 6:30 p.m. at The Smithfield Center. 

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The Smithfield Town Council recommends raising the real estate tax rate by three cents, from 16 cents to 19 cents per $100 of assessed value, rather than charge residents for trash-pickup.

Additional increases include raising water and sewer rates by 3 percent, and a 43-percent increase to the cigarette tax rate. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

While Town Council had previously been weighing the option of charging for trash pickup instead of raising the real estate tax rate at the previous budget work session on May 7, members came to a consensus on the latter Monday. 

Cut from the fiscal 2020 budget proposal was a $625,000 town hall renovation plan that would have relocated the town manager’s office from 911 S. Church St. to Smithfield Town Hall at 310 Institute St. and created a mayor’s office there. 

Added to the budget proposal were two additional town staff positions. 

“My opinion is that if we move trash collection to a pay for service this year, all we’re doing is putting off the inevitable,” said Smithfield Town Council Finance Committee Chairman Randy Pack. 

Smithfield Mayor Carter Williams agreed, adding that prices of retail items such as bread and cereal have increased significantly over the last 24 years, but that the real estate tax rate hasn’t. 

“Keep the free trash. Everybody loves that,” said Williams.

The real estate tax rate hike, if adopted, would create an additional $332,406 in town revenue, while the increase to the water and sewer rates would create a combined additional $61,701 in town revenue. The cigarette tax rate would create an additional $75,000, according to budget documents provided by Town Manager Brian Thrower. 

Charging for trash pickup would have created an additional $361,670. 

Pack said that roughly eight years ago, the Town Manager’s office had been moved to its current location on S. Church Street from Smithfield Town Hall on Institute Street, and because of that, he couldn’t support funding the $625,000 renovation. 

Williams brought up the need for two town staff positions — one for the Smithfield Parks and Recreation Department and one for the Treasurer’s Office — in addition to those that had already been proposed. 

Previously, two Parks and Recreation staff positions (one starting halfway through fiscal 2020) appeared in the budget at a cost of $69,077, and Smithfield Parks and Recreation Director Amy Novak expressed the need for a third at the May 20 work session.   

Smithfield Treasurer Ellen Minga said that due to upcoming events in the fiscal year, an additional staff member in the town Treasurer’s Office would be needed at some point. 

Those two budget items were then added to the proposal.

On additional positions, Thrower said that their salaries had not been finalized, but that the Parks and Recreation position would probably be roughly $43,242.   

With figures still being tabulated, the proposed budget sits north of $13 million, compared to the current fiscal year’s budget of $11.46 million. 

According to Thrower, 2-percent cost of living and 1-percent merit-based salary increases for staff, personnel health insurance premium increases and additional hired staff, plus other budget requirements, call for an increase to town revenue in fiscal 2020.  {/mprestriction}