Concilman says annexation to cost Tryon more than estimated

Published 2:44 pm Monday, April 14, 2008

North Carolina&squo;s involuntary annexation law is totally slanted to the municipality&squo;s advantage. There is no protection of citizens&squo; rights, no review process of municipal actions established, no time limits for completion of services promised, minimum windows established for citizens to discover discrepancies and to file suits, and maximum leniency for the municipality to correct discrepancies. The court process is lengthy, with appeals from both sides almost certain, and therefore very expensive for both sides. Thus, the taxpayers pay twice for the judgment.

Tryon&squo;s current, annexation plan reveals that the town&squo;s population will grow by 406 people, or 22.8 percent; its land area will grow by .996 square miles, or 52.4 percent; and the linear miles of streets owned by the town will grow by 10.2 miles, or 49.4 percent; and the town will provide maintenance and service to a total of 38.06 miles of streets. These statistical facts will become important as you study the plan and review the level of expenses that Tryon expects to incur to provide services to the entire new town. Remember the law requires Tryon to provide the annexed area the same level and quality of services it currently provides to its citizens.

Police services – Presently the police operate two patrol teams of three officers each. Each team works a 12-hour shift. The officers patrol with one officer in a car to provide coverage for the town. They presently drive 60,000 miles per year. The annexation plan calls for one additional officer to be hired, a 12.5 percent increase, and one additional car to be bought and operated. The questions then become, how do you divide one officer between two teams, and how do you provide equal service over 24 hours with just one additional officer? Likewise, with 50 percent more area and roads to cover, why would the town&squo;s yearly mileage not increase by 50 percent to 90,000 miles; and why would their current operating expenses not increase by 50 percent? Adding two officers and one car, plus increasing operating costs to cover the new area, would show the town&squo;s projected additional, yearly, police expense of $41,094 has been understated by $76,228. Total police increase to cover annexation should be $117,322.

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Fire services – Tryon&squo;s fire insurance rating for the town is currently 5. The annexed area&squo;s insurance rating is 5/9. To bring the annexed area up to the same level as the town will require additional fire hydrants and correctly sized water lines to serve them. These additions will require up-front expenses which have not been included in this plan, and the total figure will depend on how many water lines must be installed or replaced and how many fire hydrants are needed to place every house within 1,000 feet of a hydrant.

Street maintenance – The annexation plan allows for a 50 percent increase in department manpower to cover the 50 percent increase in town streets. It does not allow any increase in operating expenses for the street department. If the current operating budget is increased by 50 percent, this would add $50,800.00, for a total, yearly, annexation expense of $131,972.

Sanitation services – The area to be annexed currently receives its garbage service once a week from private contractors. The law requires the town to compensate these contractors for two years to cover their lost business. That means the town would have to pay all the contractor&squo;s fees for two years, which the town estimated to be $46,200 per year. Since Tryon provides twice weekly garbage pick up for its citizens and once a week recycle pick
up, the town would have to provide the annexed area with at least two pick ups per week in addition to private pick ups. No allowance was made in the annexation plan for any increase in personnel, equipment or operating expenses. All sanitation expenses fall under an Enterprise Fund, which means that fees paid by the citizens have to cover all cost. Sanitation fees, currently $18.16 per month, will definitely go up for everyone in Tryon and the annexed area. While the increase does not come under your general property tax, it amounts to the same thing.

Water service – As soon as the annexation plan goes into effect, everyone in the annexed area will see a reduction in their basic water rate of $20.34 per month. Considering there are 212 annexed customers, this means the water department, also under an Enterprise Fund, will lose approximately $51,745 per year. Again, this means that all customers receiving Tryon water will have their basic, monthly rates increase. Again, this expense does not appear under the general property tax, but it is the same thing.

Sewer service – The annexation plan estimates that Tryon will spend $2,032,000 to extend its sewer services to all citizens in Tryon and the annexed area. This expense will be paid back over 40 years at the rate of $122,688 per year. This is an estimate and it will be interesting to see what the actual construction costs will be. Certainly, it will be no less. Not included in the estimated system cost are the expenses to private citizens. Citizens may have to pay a tap fee. That subject was not covered in the annexation plan. Citizens will definitely have to pay sewer charges whether they use the service or not. Citizens that do use the service will be required to have their current septic tanks pumped dry and filled with sand, and they will have to provide underground, 4-inch, plumbing pipe from their houses to the main sewer lines. An estimated 90 homes in the annexed area will likely require electric pumps to be installed to move the sewage from the house to be sewer lines. These pumps will be installed at Tryon&squo;s expense, but the monthly electric costs will be the owner&squo;s responsibility. The owner will also have the expense of providing a holding tank or a back-up generator or both to cover the time when electrical power is lost, and sewage cannot be pumped. The plan should but does not advise the citizens of these estimated costs.

Bottom line, there is plenty of evidence in Eben Fodor&squo;s book, &dquo;Better, not Bigger,&dquo; that annexation will very likely not lead to a tax cut for Tryon citizens, but an increase to everyone&squo;s taxes, most notably those in the annexed area. In the annexed area, your tax rate will go up by at least 56 cents per 100 dollars of appraised value on your house, land, and car. This amounts to at least a 72 percent increase over what you are now paying. Take your current Polk County tax bill, which includes the county&squo;s general tax, Tryon Fire Tax, and Harmon Field Tax, and multiply that figure by .72 to see the additional tax you will pay to Tryon each year.