Do you raise taxes in a tight economy? That was the question New Hanover County Commissioners had to answer Monday.
The Commission approved the county budget without raising property taxes, but the decision didn’t come easily.
The vote on a property tax rate for New Hanover County residents came down to three-against-two. In the end, those against raising the property tax rate won.
“The owners of real property are over taxed as it,” said NHC Commissioner Jason Thompson.
As a result of the vote, the property tax rate will remain at 45.25 cents.
That decision did not sit well with others.
Commissioner Jonathan Barfield says the tax increase would have been the only source of revenue to help the county survive troubling times. “We, as a board of commissioners, have no vision beyond tomorrow; no one is looking at the affect that this no tax increase is going to have on the citizens of the county and the employees of the county.”
It’s no secret the county is the midst of a major budget deficit. The county has cut operating expenses by eight percent, or $ 21 million, from last year.
The county is also having to dip into its fund balance, which acts as a savings account. There will be $1.8 million transferred to the general fund.
Barfield says without a property tax rate increase there will be more bad news to come. “What else can we cut but services, so therefore you are going to see county government closed even more and you are going to see your libraries indeed closed even more.”
As it is, county library hours will be reduced under the new budget.
The commissioners also voted to increase the fire district tax for unincorporated residents by one cent per 100 dollars of assessed property value. This will affect anyone who does not live in within the city limits or the three beach communities. Doing so will generate $ 1.2 million for the county.
“Anybody who is in a corporated area of New Hanover County is paying twice for fire service. They are paying for their fire service and then you are all paying a piece for these few people that live in the unincorporated areas, it’s not fair they should pay for their service,” Thompson said.
Budget cuts at the state level are on the way. How that will affect our county is still unknown.
“I can’t control federal government, and I can’t control the state government, but I can do something about what we spend here,” said Commissioner Bill Caster.
The tipping fee at the landfill will also go up to $55.65 per ton.