Council approves budget with no tax increase

Photo by Marty Gordon
The Christiansburg Police Department has added two new officers. Tuesday night, they were introduced to town council. Pictured are: (from left) Chief Mark Sisson, Nicholas Barnes and Andy Beane

Christiansburg residents will not face a tax increase this fall as council tightened their belts Tuesday night and approved a lean $53 million budget.

The real estate tax for the town will remain 16 cents per $100 of assessed value for calendar year 2017. Taxable tangible personal property and machinery and tools in the town will be 45 cents per $100 of assessed value, again unchanged from the previous year.

Water and sewer rates will see a gradual step increase under a plan that costs less for the small residential user.

Those homes and businesses using 1,000 gallons water up to 50,000 gallons will see their rate jump from $6.14 to $8 per 1,000. Those in excess of 50,000 will see an increase from $4 to $6 per 1,000 gallons of usage. But those using only 1,000 gallons of water per month will see a decrease in their rate from $11 to $6 per month.

Town treasurer Valerie Tweedie said the changes are needed to cover the cost of increasing water rates from the water authority as well as the need to improve aging infrastructure and are based on recommendations and forecasts from our consultant Draper Aden.

Typical sewer rates will also see a decrease per month from $15 monthly per 2,000 gallons to $9 per month for a 1,000 gallons. Rates would then increase for every 1,000 gallons thereafter from $8.50 to $10.25.

Tweedie said the new sewer rate fees will help the town to improve its aging infrastructure both in the collection system for waste water and the treatment at the town’s sewer plant.

Council did agree to increase parking fine violations from $10 to $25, and increase the maximum consumer utility consumption tax from $2.50 to $3. The rate on the utility tax remained unchanged.

Three new positions were included in the budget with one being for a new patrol officer in the police department, a new maintenance worker for public works and one part-time to full-time position with parks and recreation.

The budget includes a two percent merit pool for merit increases that total $232,000, and a one percent cost-of-living increase for all town employees

Council also gave themselves a small increase in the form of a $25 stipend for members attending meetings other than the scheduled monthly council meetings.

Major capital improvements and capital items contained in the budget include: Chrisman Mill Road Crossing and intersection improvement projects, N. Franklin Cambria intersection, Quinn Stuart signal, Falling Branch intersection and signal, storm drainage and stream restorations for Ellett and Town branches, College Street Basin Rehab, Pump Station upgrades, Huckleberry Trail projects, annual paving program, replacements at the water treatment plant, and implementation and design work for the town’s sewer plant.

Other major initiatives in the proposed budget include: design of wayfinding signs, updating the town’s website, incorporating more public outreach, upgrading the town’s technology backbone, phone systems for the police department and waste water treatment facility, rolling out a monthly brush pickup program, adding a vacuum truck to improve sewer maintenance programs, aquatics after school programs, stronger employee safety programs and a reduced employee cost for family medical insurance programs.

Tuesday night, council also held a public hearing to allow a change in zoning to allow the Montgomery County Moose Lodge 1470 to locate a new facility in the Christiansburg Industrial Park.

Currently the zoning is listed as Industrial-1 and would have to be changed to allow the lodge to move to a spot in the Thresold Center, a multi-tenant commercial facility in the industrial park at 225 Industrial Drive.

Whitney Abraham’s family owns the center that hosts a variety of businesses for officers, manufacturing, workshop, research and development, and warehousing.

The Moose Lodge has recently sold its current building and property behind the Spradlin Farms Shopping Center, and according to its administrator, John Beamer, is looking to locate in a 5,000 sq. ft. spot in the Thresold Center.

The lodge’s current location is 12,000 sq. ft., and offers a restaurant, pool leagues and space for non-profit events. That has included the sale of alcohol, bands and bingo events.

Beamer said the lodge would seek a ABC license if the rezoning is approved.

“We hope to continue our charitable activities in this location and endeavor to be an asset to the Town of Christiansburg as well as all of Montgomery County,” he said.

Beamer said the lodge sees this as a temporary location as they look to build a new facility later down the road.

Abraham said the request for a change is consistent with the town’s zoning requirements.

“The Thresold Center is desirous of leasing to the Moose Lodge 1470, and Moose Lodge is desirous of leasing from the Thresold Center on a multi-year lease,” Abrahams said

Currently the town’s zoning does not allow clubs and lodges in the Industrial zoning, but Beamer noted there would be no overnight lodging at the site.

“The Thresold Center’s neighbors and other tenants will not be adversely impacted by the desired activities. The Moose Lodge’s desired activities are in no way incompatible with current usage,” Abraham said.

The Moose Lodge’s greatest occupancy will be after normal working hours and on weekends. The space has been vacant for several years and there has been no demand for it by any other industrial tenant.

Council is expected to vote on the change at its next regularly scheduled meeting.

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