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Waynesville annexes charter school property

The Town of Waynesville’s area increased by 2.82 acres last week with the annexation of a parcel at 1023 Dellwood Road that Alderman Gary Caldwell said was “part of our growth.”

Turns out, that growth comes at the expense of town taxpayers. 

The parcel, which is home to Shining Rock Classical Academy, is tax-exempt per state law and thus will pay no property taxes.

Additionally, annexation will save the charter school almost $18,000 in initial water and sewer hookup fees, and also allows the school to pay much lower municipal rates for water and sewer service than it would have paid outside city limits. 

According to Director of Public Services David Foster, the rate for municipal water customers is $1.48 per 100 cubic feet, and the rate for municipal sewer customers is $1.50 per 100 cubic feet. 

Were Shining Rock not annexed into the town limits, the school would have paid $2.55 and $2.83 for those services, respectively. 

Foster went on to say that if the school’s utilization of those services was high enough, it may even qualify for a discounted rate. However, he opined that he didn’t think the school’s consumption would rise to that level. 

Back on Aug. 8, Executive Director of the Lake Junaluska Assembly Jack Ewing submitted a petition to aldermen requesting voluntary annexation of the parcel, which is a legal requirement for those outside the corporate limits of the town who wish to avail themselves of the town’s water and sewer services.

Indeed, the town did have the option to refuse annexation of the parcel but still provide all those services to the school at the higher rates because the property is within the town’s ETJ (extraterritorial jurisdiction). 

Instead, a standing-room only crowd of Shining Rock parents watched the Board of Aldermen vote unanimously to welcome the parcel into Waynesville proper at a tremendous cost savings to the school.

There was no public opposition to the annexation voiced during the meeting.

Alderman LeRoy Roberson said during the meeting that he felt the parcel met all necessary requirements for annexation. Alderman Jon Feichter cited the precedent of the nearby Bojangles restaurant, and Alderman Julia Freeman called it “a win for all of us.”

Mayor Gavin Brown — who once served on the Haywood County School Board — said that he had philosophical differences with charter schools, but would not let that influence his feelings on the annexation issue. 

Brown also said the annexation decision wasn’t an attempt to rekindle the town’s desire to annex Lake Junaluska, which owns the Shining Rock parcel and also sits just across the street from it. 

Despite the fact that the parcel won’t contribute to the tax base of Waynesville — where taxpayers just experienced a nearly 10 percent hike in property tax rates to fund the hiring of eight additional firefighters — the town does gain an additional utility customer, albeit at a rate lower than it could have demanded. 

Feichter, however, feels that the annexation does still hold some benefit for the town. 

“Though I realize the town doesn’t profit financially quite as significantly as it ordinarily might, I do believe we realize several important benefits — both direct and indirect — that make the annexation worthwhile,” he said. “The most direct, tangible benefit to the town is the acquisition of a new, large utility customer — one we might not have without the annexation — and the increased revenue that comes with it.”

Another less tangible benefit Feichter thinks the town will realize is that by paying lower water and sewer rates, Shining Rock will have more money to spend on students.  

“That is, I believe, a win-win that helps all of us in the long run,” he said. “Although I was never any good at algebra, I think that formula is: new customer for the town plus reduced revenue paid for water and sewer equals a win for the students.”

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