Marion residents are expected to see slight increases in their water and sewer and trash collection bills as well as their personal property taxes in the coming fiscal year.
The town’s proposed $14.4 million budget for the 2019-20 year includes a 10 percent rate increase in water and sewer rates, a $2 per month jump in the residential garbage collection fee and a 5-cent increase in the personal property tax.
Water and sewer rates have been consistently ticking upward since the 2015-16 budget, when they were raised 10 percent. They’ve seen additional 10 percent hikes every year since except for 2018-19 when they went up by 5 percent.
A significant percentage of those increases is being directed to the town’s ongoing project to update its water and sewer system. The project known as CIRP, short for Comprehensive Infrastructure Replacement Program, was initiated to improve the dependability and efficiency of Marion’s water and sewer system and decrease water losses. The town is continuing its efforts to replace some of its lines, which are as much as 50 years old. With the older lines constantly developing leaks, the town loses millions of gallons of water each month.
Once the existing lines and systems are updated, it’s the town’s goal to continuously work to maintain them.
Budget planners, according to Town Manager Bill Rush, nudged the garbage collection fee up from $15 to $17 in anticipation of the town’s fees to dispose of its waste at a regional landfill going up. Should that not occur, he said, they plan to set the additional money aside in preparation for the next time a new garbage truck needs to be purchased.
The trash collection fee last jumped by $2 in the 2014-15 budget, when such a truck was needed.
The personal property tax increase from 35 cents to 40 cents per $100 valuation was needed, Rush said, to offset increases in insurance costs.
The budget has grown by less than a million dollars since last year when it came in at about $13.7 million.
“It’s pretty much business as usual,” said Rush.
Two people spoke during Monday evening’s public hearing on the budget.
Ron Thomason, Smyth County’s director of tourism, asked for an increase in funding or at least level funding. Anyone in Marion recently, he said, has seen the influx of motorcyclists who come to experience the Back of the Dragon. Many of those riders, he said, are coming thanks to the tourism agency’s motorcycle campaign.
Thomason told the town council, “We’ve only touched the surface. We do have momentum in tourism.”
The council is expected to provide level funding to the tourism agency.
Mike Albano lobbied the council to transform one of its tennis courts into a small soccer field for the playing of soccer-tennis. The sport allows people to compete in a soccer-like competition with fewer people.
He said there’s a growing excitement for soccer in Marion, noting that the middle school even has a soccer club.
Rush noted that the town has two tennis courts remaining in its recreation facilities, including one on Chatham Hill and another at Riverbend Park.
The town council is expected to vote on the budget’s adoption at its June 17 meeting. The budget must be in place by July 1 when the new fiscal year begins.