Norris budget holds tax, water rates

Proposal adds police, public works positions

There will be no property tax or water/sewer rate increases for the Norris 2021-22 fiscal year budget beginning July 1, according to the measure approved recently on first reading by the City Council.

A public hearing on the budget ordinance will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, June 14, prior to the 7 p.m. regular council meeting. The second and final reading of the ordinance will take place during the council meeting.

The $1.53 million spending plan does not require a tax increase, and the city expects to carry forward a $40,000 general fund surplus into the new fiscal year, City Manager Scott Hackler said.

“A new salary, staffing and bonus plan will be approved along with the budget, giving city workers raises and adding one police position and one public works position,” he said.

The additional police officer will raise the department’s total to seven full-time officers, Hackler said, including the chief, two lieutenants, and four patrol officers.

Mayor Chris Mitchell said he’s pleased and encouraged by the new budget and the city’s current financial position.

“I’m more optimistic about our future now than ever,” Mitchell told The Courier News. “I see this budget as support for continued improvement in the quality of life for the people of Norris.”

Mitchell said this will be the “13th year we’ve had no property tax increase” in the city, “except for a small increase a few years ago to make up for the loss of the [state] Hall Tax.”

“We have been able to grow the general fund, we have not accumulated any debt, and we’ve been able to increase salaries,” the mayor said. “And now we’re increasing staff levels by two positions.

“We still have a surplus in our general fund,” he said. “It’s been a journey, and it didn’t just happen. Employees are getting raises and adjustments to the pay scales. We’re hiring an additional police officer and a public works employee, which will allow us to have two public works crews instead of one.”

The only debt the city has is in the Water and Sewer Commission, which has a separate budget.

“We have no non-utility debt,” Mitchell said. “We do have a little bit of utility debt. But the city is extremely healthy, and we are continuing to improve our financials.”

Goals for the coming year include several projects, Mitchell said.

“We’re going to repair several roofs on city buildings. We will buy a mini-excavator for use by mainly the water and sewer departments. We’re going to purchase some safety equipment for the police, including tasers.

“We also intend to make repairs and improvements on the playgrounds,” he said. “And we will complete our Safe Routes to Schools sidewalk project in the downtown area, and help complete the Sawmill Road extension to Norris Freeway.”