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One resident questions Danville’s proposed tax increase

Danville City Commission’s regular meeting last week was the first since City Manager Ron Scott laid out a proposed budget that would increase payroll and net profits taxes by half a percent each. One community member attended the meeting in order to comment on the proposed tax increases.

“I looked over the preliminary budget and did not see anything in there concerning our drug problem here in the community. I know everybody is concerned about that,” Wilma Brown told city commissioners during the commission’s regular “hear the public” agenda item. “I’m also a little bit concerned about the possibility of raising taxes. If we need to raise taxes for the safety or well-being of our citizens, I’m all for that. I’m all for raising taxes if we need to improve or develop our infrastructure, certainly — I don’t question that.”

But Brown questioned money spent by the city in recent years on consultants for things such as an evaluation of the city’s downtown fire station; a wastewater system evaluation; development of a parks and recreation master plan; a wayfinding/signage consultant; and the consulting firm RKG, which is in the final stages of recommending new economic development strategies for the area.

Brown said she believes RKG’s recommendations call for a focus on industrial development as opposed to commercial or community development.

Such recommendations would be “essentially bringing us back to what we had 25 years ago,” Brown said.

“The only thing that is different at this time is that we are putting as citizens a great amount of money into economic development. At that time we were not, 25 years ago,” she said. “So I am questioning that we need an additional employee there.”

“… What I see is that economic development now has less responsibility and yet needs more employees to carry out what they’ve been doing.”

Brown said she also has “a problem” with the city allocating $80,000 annually for a new preservationist position in order to maintain its “Certified Local Government” status.

Brown said the Heart of Danville Main Street program has previously provided the necessary qualified preservationist for the CLG designation, but has now hired two positions recently without hiring anyone who meets the preservationist requirements.

Brown acknowledged that CLG status gives Danville access to potential grant funding for preservation projects, but questioned if those grants would be worth more than the $80,000 annual cost for the preservationist position.

“I don’t see a need for a preservationist employee, especially when we have a problem with drugs in this community,” she said. “… When it comes to preserving a building or a life, I would say that our money needs to go toward preserving these young lives.”

The city commission’s standard practice is not to respond to or question comments during the “hear the public.”

Danville’s proposed budget would fund more than $1.5 million in new costs by increasing payroll taxes from 1.5 percent to 2 percent and net profits taxes from 1.25 percent to 1.75 percent. The payroll tax increase would bring in an estimated $1.6 million; the net profits tax increase would bring in an estimated $300,000.

Expenses paid for with the increases would include about $484,000 in matching funds for two “streetscape” projects on Main Street; up to $300,000 to add “emergency medical dispatch” services at the 911 call center; $200,000 to replace a Second Street bridge that is not rated to support fire trucks; $100,000 for additional street paving; $95,000 for demolishing condemned and unsafe buildings; $90,000 in additional funding for the Economic Development Partnership; and $80,000 for the preservationist position, along with six other smaller expenses.

The city commission will hold a special called meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday for further discussion of the budget. The next regular commission meeting with “hear the public” agenda items will be 5:30 p.m. Monday, May 22.