05/31/05 — County will ask resdients for 10 cents more in taxes

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County will ask resdients for 10 cents more in taxes

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on May 31, 2005 1:49 PM

County Manager Lee Smith presented a proposed 2005-06 budget to commissioners today that includes a 10-cent increase in the property tax rate.

Commissioners got a preview of the budget, which calls for a tax rate of 76 cents per $100 worth of property, during a work session last week. Smith is required by law to formally present a proposed budget by June 1.

Commissioners have until the last day of the month to approve a budget.

If the new tax rate is approved it would mean that the owner of home valued at $85,000 would see his tax bill rise by $85.

Half the money from the proposed tax increase would be placed in a capital reserve fund for school needs, would reduce the county's use of its reserve accounts and would cover the expected increases in Medicaid costs.

About 3 percent of the increase would be used for capital improvement programs for Wayne Community College and the county airport and to increase the fund used for economic development incentives, Smith said.

The rest of the proceeds would pay for equipment, a grant to match funds protecting land around Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, vehicles, fuel and training.

"This budget is sound and meets the needs of the county," Smith said. "I believe this budget meets our obligations and funds programs determined by the county board as priorities."

Smith said in developing the budget he kept in mind commissioners' desire to help the county move forward in educating its youths, meeting state and federal mandates for services, and provide capital needs to support those programs and activities.

"This budget is the result of prudent and careful use of every tax dollar, does not create a deficit or reduction in fund balance, and does meet our citizens' needs," Smith said.

He said the budget would move the county into a position of financial security and away from the mentality of "living paycheck to paycheck."

He pointed to the ever-rising costs of Medicaid as an example of Wayne's obligations. The county will spend more than $7 million on Medicaid alone in 2005-06, he said.

"This amount equals nearly $.13 on the present tax rate. North Carolina is the only state in the United States requiring counties to share in Medicaid costs," Smith said. " Other states have come to the conclusion this cost must be spread or distributed in a more equitable manner ... and we know that ad valorem property taxes is not the an equitable answer."

Smith said that if Wayne had use of the $7 million for other needs, commissioners would not be struggling to meet future facility and capital need debt service.

The commissioners will meet again Wednesday and on June 7 for budget work sessions. More work sessions are expected to be scheduled before the public hearing June 21.