The town property and business owners turned out in near record numbers to voice their opinions, oppositions and suggestions over the much debated budget ordinance. The crowds quickly swelled into the hall, out the door and around the building to listen to the meeting from outside of open windows.
The budget was initially approved for a 5 cent increase per $100 of property valuation. However, last week when the budget ordinance was prepared and submitted for approval by the town council, discussion among council members led to an apparent change of mind in at least one of the council members, which resulted in another vote to approve a 9 cent increase instead of 5. The meeting was scheduled to resume today to enable the town manager to revise the budget ordinance and resubmit it for approval.
Many telephone calls and emails to the council members, town manager, mayor and others made it apparent that most property owners were not convinced that a 16.4% increase in our taxes (9 cents over the 55 cents already in place) is necessary. In fact, Mayor Rick Owen made it very clear in the meeting today that an independent study done by a financial expert showed that the 5 cent increase will take care of all items needed to meet the new budget. The only difference for this year that an additonal 4 cents will make is a reduction in the debt for the new motor grader to be purchased. The public comment period revisted the property owners' concerns about assessing an additional 4 cents now when the economy, gas prices, grocery prices, etc. are being increased and other towns are holding taxes down well below the Beech Mountain rate, just to name a fraction of the reasons we should increase the taxes only as much as is needed now to meet budget needs. The council listened patiently to the overflowing audience but in the end, Mayor Owen again made a motion to hold the tax increase to 5 cents, Gil Adams seconded the motion but councilmen Randy Corn, Alan Holcombe and Pete Chamberlin voted against this motion. Randy Corn then made a motion to increase the taxes 9 cents, Alan Holcombe seconded the motion and Pete Chamberlin voted in favor of this motion while Gil Adams and Rick Owen voted against it. The motion to increase our taxes 9 cents per $100 of valuation for the next fiscal year was passed and the budget, as presented, was approved. Plans for the additional 4 cents are to apportion these taxes to debt reduction now and paving more roads in the future as well as other items. Unfortunately, we learned that we will be losing Genesis Wildlife Rehabilitation Center to the Eagle's Nest subdivision as it has not been able to get assistance from the town to help sustain it's existence on Beech Mountain. We will miss Leslie and her dedication to the animals of Beech Mountain and the surrounding area. It is such a unique cause and area to visit, as well as one in which many people living and visiting our mountain enjoyed. We hope the move will enable Leslie to do more for this worthy cause.