Conover approves fee hikes
Conover City Council approved its $13 million budget immediately following a public hearing Tuesday.
After more than 11 hours of Conover city staff and City Council meeting and discussing budget cuts and fee increases, City Manager Donald Duncan Jr. said it was "not an easy budget."
"It's a difficult time, and there is an increase in expenses that we can't control," Duncan said.
Even though Conover decided not to increase property taxes for its residents, City Council approved a rate hike for water, sewer and landfill fees, as well as fire inspection costs.
Effective for fiscal year 2011-12, there will be a $1.69 increase for every 1,000 gallons of water used and another $3.12 increase for 1,000 gallons of sewer used.
For example, a family of four with an average use of 3,000 gallons of water and sewer will see a total increase of $2.79 on their monthly bill or $33.48 annually.
"The more you consume, the more you pay," Duncan said.
City residents who have trash pickup will see costs jump $6 to $11 per month, instead of $5 per month. Duncan said the city pays $22 per customer. With Tuesday's budget approval, the cost is now split between the city and customer.
However, a Conover native took his first steps into a City Council meeting Tuesday to express his disapproval of Council's decision to increase landfill fees.
Michael Paysour said he's lived in Conover for more than 50 years and never spoke to City Council until Tuesday. Paysour said he doesn't want an increase in the landfill fee because he said it is "unfair," especially for single households that might not have enough trash in a two-week period to constitute a pick-up from the city.
"I believe in fairness and hope you reconsider the charge," Paysour said during Tuesday's public hearing.
Conover Mayor Lee Moritz Jr. said the city was faced with an increase in several costs, such as fuel and energy, and those rake hikes have to be shared with residents.
"We can't absorb (the fees) in the entirety," Moritz said. "We had to pass it on."
Paysour also disagreed with City Council scheduling its budget public hearing and approval of the 2011-12 budget at a 2 p.m. Tuesday meeting when most people are working.
Fire inspection fees, which were introduced in Conover a year ago, will increase. Duncan said a level three inspection, which is for small businesses every three years will be $65; level two assembly buildings, such as schools and churches, for every two years will be $85; and level one large industrial facilities, which are once a year inspections, will be $100. The increase is equivalent to $22 a year for small businesses and $300 a year for large industrial facilities.
"I am opposed to fees, but it's evident that we need to increase fees," said Councilman Don Beal.
Mayor pro Tem Kyle Hayman asked if fees can be adjusted during the fiscal year. Duncan said changes can be made to the fees.
"You did a great job and I commend you," said Kay Matthews, a Conover resident, during a public hearing.
Conover City Council's next meeting is at 7 p.m. June 6 at Conover City Hall.