At the November 7, 2022 meeting of Farmville’s Board of Commissioners, the Board voted to increase our electric rates for the second time in fiscal year 2022/23. The first increase, which took effect on July 1, 2022, was 5%. The second increase will begin on January 1, 2023. The discussion on the linked video is at one hour and two minutes, but is often difficult to hear.
There is some talk on the streets of Farmville about the possibility of adding a fire tax for in-town residents in order to help pay for the much-needed new fire station. My understanding is that nearby residents just outside of town limits do pay a fire tax, as their rural fire station disbanded and donated most proceeds to the Farmville Fire Department. Perhaps since they do not pay Farmville property tax, the fire tax helps them be able to receive the services of our wonderful fire fighters. Some at Town Hall say they never will agree to adding any new taxes or increasing existing tax rates, but prefer raising utility rates instead. The thinking is that people complain louder about more taxes than about utility increases. Of course, cutting spending and prioritizing needs are the best ways to help the budget. If one is committed to big spending and no new or increased taxes, adding to the tax base is one of the only solutions to pay the bills. That means building and selling new homes plus attracting new businesses. Whatever one’s fiscal philosophy, we all can agree that many people are having a hard time paying increased utility bills today.
Speaking of utilities, the Town of Farmville allocated $24,000 for library utilities for fiscal year 2021/22. Stunningly, the utility bill ended up being $14,000 over that. How many residents commented about the wisdom of a plan to place so many windows in such a large building and how that would affect heating and cooling costs? Fiscal responsibility is not just assessing the wisdom of building a $5.3 million new library in a town of 4,700. Fiscal responsibility entails asking about future utility, cleaning, maintenance and staffing costs. We taxpayers spent over $38,000 for one year of utilities at this new building. Ouch.
On November 7, the Board was asked to rezone parcels 15776, 15825, and 15826 ( a total of 113 acres) to allow Vanhart Homes from Wilson, NC to build 253 single-family homes and 133 townhouses on that property. This land lies on the north side of Wesley Church Road, south of Wilson Street and the railroad tracks and east of Melissa Drive and East Prince Road. There was a public hearing in which several adjacent property owners spoke up against this rezoning. The board voted unanimously to deny this rezoning request. Now Vanhart Homes can go back to the drawing board and come up with a different proposal, if they wish. They might ask for Farmville to rezone less of the property. How many new homes and townhouses would be a reasonable number for Farmville to be pro-growth, add a variety of housing options, yet retain our small-town charm? How much of this 113 acres should or should not be rezoned? What could our infrastructure handle well? These could be important questions for the future.