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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Thoughts about last night's Hickory City Council meeting - May 6, 2014

Agenda about the City Council meeting of May 6, 2014

 The Hound's Notes:

1) The most interesting events of the evening were the presentations made during Persons Requesting to be Heard. Cliff Moone speaks for Inspiring Spaces and the Bond referendum and Larry Pope speaks against the Inspiring Spaces process and the Bond referendum. Take note that when Mr. Moone speaks he is not given the 3 minute time notification. Mr. Pope is given the 3 minute time notification. Is this because Mr. Moone is speaking in support of the Council?

Hound Note: I do find Mr. Moone's unconditional support of this initiative to be troubling to the extent that it certainly seems to be following the pattern of the "Sails on the Square" project. A project that Mr. Moone stood in opposition to many times.

Once again we have been witnessing Hickory Inc. ramrodding a process... putting the cart before the horse. There has been no citizen input to this point and through everything that has been said thus far, Hickory Inc. intends to find a way to do these projects by hook or by crook. Witness City Manager Berry telling a group of citizens that if the Plan A Bond Referendum does not pass, then they will go to Plan B. Then he refuses to address Plan B, when asked to explain Plan B. How can the public make informed decisions, when Hickory Inc. refuses to provide vital information. Information that by all rights belongs to the public.

The City is playing a Shell game here, as Mr. Pope gets into. And being a Shell, I know one when I see one.

2) From the Agenda as produced here. I spoke about the  City’s street resurfacing program. I do believe that there are legitimate issues with the city streets in Hickory. The $450,000 shown in the graphic below, that has been shown multiple times on this site was the monetary number that Mr. Hanson revealed last night - $450,000. So if that number is relevant to carry forward into the picture, then the others must be also.

This subject last night in my opinion was a pre-salvo volley to lend legitimacy to the necessity as to why Hickory Inc. is going to raise property taxes this year. As already stated multiple times, this isn't new information. City Manager Berry talked about it at the City Council meeting of May 21 of last year (2013). Below is the screenshot of estimated costs including street resurfacing, revenue losses and operational increases, and what they call an Economic Competitiveness Plan, which includes their Inspiring Spaces plan.

Last year they told the public that the cost of moving to a 30 year resurfacing plan from the current 58 year resurfacing plan would be a 1-cent increase in the property tax rate.

The next city council meeting will be the meeting where the City Manager will unveil the Recommended Annual Budget for Fiscal Year 2014-15. The Budget has to be approved in June for the Fiscal Year that begins on July 1, 2014. The present year's budget was approved on June 4, 2013.

So, all indications seem to point to Chuck Hansen telling you that your property tax rate will be rising in part to pay for street resurfacing.

3) Plan B is that the City is going to raise your taxes above what they need to cover the necessary operational expenses and the road improvements. If the bond referendum fails, then they will take the additional revenue coming into the General Fund, that would be "Unfunded Balance" and they will earmark it to begin work on the Linear Park sidewalk from Union Square to Lenoir-Rhyne. The failure of the bond referendum will force them to do Hickory Inc.'s Inspiring Spaces program piecemeal, but they are going to do it whether the public wants it or not.

The Mayor says in the Hal Row interview this week that a $40 million bond would result in an $80 increase in the tax bill for a $100,000 home owner. Look at the above Power Point slide. That number falls in line with what they are proposing for the Economic Competitiveness Plan; although Inspiring Spaces is only supposed to be one part of that plan. Also factor in that Steve Mull, a member of the Inspiring Spaces Committee, is stated in a Hickory Daily Record article, from last week from the Inspiring Spaces meeting, as saying that what was proposed would cost $45 to $55 million. He also added that any plan should include all four quadrants of the city to get buy-in.

So in looking at the Power point slide we can assume an additional 1.5-cents for operation expenses + 1-cent for road improvements + 8-cents for Inspiring Spaces alone. The city will be asking for a  10.5 cent increase in the property tax rate, if the Sites and Buildings monies and Redevelopment monies that are in the slide above are lumped in with that total. It will be more if they aren't. So at a minimum City of Hickory residents will see their property tax rate rise from 50-cents to at least 60.5 cents.

Please also remember that with the devaluation of much of the Commercial and Industrial property that much of the property tax base burden has been shifted onto residential properties at a time when homes in the area have also lost value. The loss of assessed property value alone will require a property tax rate increase, if the county is honest about the assessed valuations.  Morganton residents saw their tax rate rise by 21-cents this year ((5-cent increase for the City of Morganton - from 48-cents to 53-cents) and a (16-cent increase for Burke County - from 52-cents to 68-cents)), Don't think something like that can't happen in Hickory, if Hickory Inc. bites off more than it can chew with its spending spree.

The Mayor said in the Hal Row interview that the worst thing that can happen is that 'We spend the money and the businesses don't come here, but we live in a nicer community.' The part he fails to mention is the little part about having to pay back the $40 million in debt. We also see with the roads situation that it isn't only about building. The community has to maintain what it's got. I think Hickory Inc. needs to work on fixing what it's got before spending more money on adding. There's no need to buy a 100-inch 3D Television, if the walls are going to fall down around you.

Final Thought
When you constantly operate in a behind the scenes, dark, closed door, hide the information, non-transparent manner against the wishes of the majority of the people, then that by definition is Tyranny.

1. arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power; despotic abuse of authority. Synonyms: despotism, absolutism, dictatorship.

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