B’boro board adopts new budget with tax increase

BLADENBORO — The Bladenboro Town Board voted to approve the proposed 2015-16 budget that carries with it a one-half-cent tax increase. The vote to approve the budget was 5-1, with Councilman Everett Butler casting the lone dissenting vote.

The new tax rate is now 0.64 cents per $100 valuation, just slightly less than revenue neutral, said Bladenboro Mayor Rufus Duckworth. He added that, in order to achieve the revenue neutral rate, the town would have had to implement a tax rate of 0.643 cents.

The town lost about $5.8 million in property value in Bladenboro due to the county’s revaluation process, according to Duckworth. Included in those losses were:

— Family Dollar Store lost just under $24,000 in value

— First Citizens Bank lost about $148,000

— The town’s cotton mill lost $104,000

— Hardees lost just over $215,000

— MHM Marine lost about $967,000 in value

Even though the budget is tight, Duckworth said that town employees will receive a 2-percent cost of living adjustment.

“On the plus side, in our budget from last year, we appropriated the use of $34,000 out of the fund balance. Through the hard work of the town employees — Chris Hunt the police chief, Andy Coleman our public works director and Melanie (Hester, town administrator) — we will be using a very minimal amount of the fund balance,” said Duckworth.

He did not specify the exact amount that will be needed, but said it is anticipated to be less than the original appropriated amount.

Duckworth said that, while town staff and employees were trying to save money at every turn, there were still some accomplishments.

Duckworth said the town was able to upgrade two town maintenance vehicles by purchasing two used state trucks in their place. He added that town has pumped the sludge at the wastewater treatment plant, ground up the yard waste debris at the town’s yard waste site, and built a community building and the new fire department building is about one month away from opening. The town has also completed construction of Phase I of the McLean Park.

Duckworth said the pumping of the sludge at the wastewater treatment plant was an item that was not initially in the 2014-15 budget.

“It had to be done and it was not in the budget,” said Duckworth.

Erin Smith can be reached at 910-862-4163.