06/08/04 — Duplin raises property tax rate to 74.5

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Duplin raises property tax rate to 74.5

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on June 8, 2004 2:01 PM

KENANSVILLE -- Duplin County's taxpayers would pay 3.5 cents more in property taxes per $100 of valuation, according to next year's proposed budget.

The tax rate in Duplin is 74.5 cents. The increase would bring that up to 78 cents to help raise enough money for a proposed $42 million budget. Raising taxes would cover a $783,000 shortfall in expenses, said Duplin County Manager Fred Eldridge as he presented the budget Monday during a public hearing held by county commissioners.

They will hold another hearing on June 21 during a meeting at 7:30 p.m. at the Faison Fire and Rescue station.

Board of Education member Emily Manning asked the board Monday to reconsider what was proposed for the schools. "We appreciate the money crunch you're in, but please re-look at the budget and see what can be done for the children ... We can either educate or incarcerate, and which is the cheaper to do?"

Evelyn Warren said she and her husband have a problem with the Department of Social Services budget, which is historically the largest amount to go to any department. "We worked all our life to be secure in our later years, and we are being taxed to death to provide for people who offer nothing but their presence. It's not fair."

Economic Development was cut by almost $69,000 from $446,000 this year to $338,000 next year. EDC Director Woody Brinson was so upset with his budget he asked for a closed session.

The county doesn't have enough money to do what everyone wants, said Eldridge. He said he was going to have to pull $1.5 million from the general fund carryover from this year to create a balanced budget, as he did last year. Last year's budget was $38 million, which reflected an 8 percent increase over the previous fiscal year's $37.7 million budget.

"Last year, the board took a substantial step," said Eldridge. "We have a lot of catching up to do in a lot of areas."


The proposed budget would give education $8 million, including $6.5 million for the public schools and $1.3 million for James Sprunt Community College. That's $1 million more than this year

Eldridge set aside a new $500,000 in the capital account for schools. He also increased the school operations budget by $500,000, which brings the school budget from $5.6 million last year to $6.1 million in the new fiscal year.

Emergency Medical Services

A $120 a year fee for emergency medical services paid by households, businesses and farms would raise $2.6 million toward the proposed EMS budget of $2.7 million. This reflects phasing in paid emergency medical services during the upcoming year.

Eldridge said the county also plans to improve collections for ambulance calls to help bring in the money, and the EMS will operate at a higher level. For example, paramedic calls bring in more money than basic level calls. He also plans to pull $450,000 from the fund balance to help pay for implementation of the county-wide paid service.

The recommended budget reflects manning eight EMS sites in the county with EMTs.

Emergency Communications

Eldridge proposes $866,000 for 911 Communications, which includes a $167,000 increase to replace outdated and broken equipment. He said it would really take $183,000 worth of capital improvements to bring the communications system "up to snuff," but he has been able to absorb some of the expense by making changes in personnel.

Other departments

The elections board office would receive an additional $186,000, which includes $135,000 to lease voting equipment and the remainder to pay poll workers in two elections next fiscal year.

The proposed budget includes paying $378,000 of building maintenance money for badly needed courtroom renovations.

The Sheriff would receive a $500,000 increase over this year for two new detectives and to support new positions created this year.

The jail would receive $1.5 million, which includes a $190,000 increase for two new jailers. Overpopulation is putting the guards under stress, he said, and the increase will go to adding two positions and putting in $20,000 worth of equipment.

The $142,000 proposed budget for Animal Control reflects an increase of $45,000 to add a person to provide additional hours at the Duplin County Animal Control Facility. Capital outlay money will go into new cages for the cats, and professional fees for a veterinarian.