Waynesvilleâs budget assumed a merger with Lake Junaluska would come to pass. If so, it would bring in an extra $650,000 in new property taxes for the town. It would also add more than a dozen new employees to the townâs payroll, from police officers to garbage men, to serve Lake Junaluskaâs sizeable residential neighborhoods.
But the merger may not happen this year after all due to political hang-ups in the state legislature. And that in turn means Waynesville would have to âradically alterâ its budget, according to Town Manager Marcy Onieal.
âThis doesnât mean that annexation wonât happen â itâs just unlikely to happen on the schedule we have spent the past year planning for, and we must now adjust our budget accordingly,â Onieal told the town board.
If the merger is approved by the General Assembly, then the budget will stay as is. But Oniel is skeptical, noting that âthe clock has nearly run outâ to get the bill passed before the legislature adjourns for the year. Thus, she believes a contingency plan is in order.
For now, the town will operate under the assumption the merger isnât going to pass. In coming weeks, the town will know for sure, and at that point the board will come back to the table and amend the budget.
The addition of Lake Junaluska was more or less a wash for the town finanically. So the town wonât be left with a hole in its budget should the merger fall through.
Waynesville planned to spend the extra property tax revenue on 14.5 new positions, including police, firefighters, public works and street department employees, to serve the 765 homes in the Lake Junaluska area. Many of those workers would come from the existing ranks of Lake Junaluskaâs own public works department, who would transfer over to the town.
But backing out the $650,000 in projected new property taxes arenât the only budget adjustments the town would have to make, though. Whether the merger goes through affects how much the town gets in trash pick-up fees, water and sewer fees and fire service taxes. The town had also budget for water and sewer line repairs at the lake.
âI want to applaud your allâs efforts,â Alderman Wells Greeley told town staff. âI know that took a lot of time and energy.â
Meanwhile, the board will sit in limbo until a final decision is made on the merger at the General Assembly.
âWhat happens in Raleigh doesnât stay in Raleigh. It comes back to Waynesville,â said Mayor Gavin Brown. âOur budget was left a little bit on its ear. We are sort of at the beck and call of the legislature.â
News editor Becky Johnson contributed to this story.