06/21/05 — Commissioners hear complaints

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Commissioners hear complaints

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on June 21, 2005 1:45 PM

Wayne County commissioners got an earful this morning from people opposed to an increase in the county's tax rate.

Commissioners held a public hearing today on the proposed county budget for 2005-06. It calls for a 7.5-cent increase in the property tax rate.

Sixteen people spoke at the hearing, with nine opposed to the increase.

Don Wooten told commissioners they need to tighten spending before considering increasing taxes. He referred to commissioners' planned trip to Hawaii to attend a national convention next month.

"Every commissioner has his own pet project, including Hawaii," Wooten said. "The only thing the trip teaches you is how to increase my taxes."

Bobby Mathis asked commissioners what benefits he would receive as a result of higher taxes.

Lynn LaGrone pointed out the difficulty the average taxpayer has in coming up with the money to pay higher tax bills. "If City Councilman Chuck Allen couldn't pay his taxes on time, what about us?"

Fran Casey wanted to know why Wayne County officials cannot find ways to stave off a tax increase, citing other counties that are proposing no increase. "If Durham and Wake can hold the line, why can't we?"

Not every speaker was opposed to the higher tax rate.

Mary Bartlett, a member of the Public Library Board of Trustees, thanked commissioners for their support.

Barrett Parker of the Wayne County Humane Society urged commissioners to continue with plans to build a new animal shelter, saying the need for a new facility is a public health issue.

County School Superinten-dent Steve Taylor called upon commissioners to give the school system a 5-percent increase in current expense money to pay for a teacher supplement. He reminded commissioners that they had promised last year to support the supplement, which is intended to help the schools recruit and retain good teachers.

Taylor said commissioners are reneging on the deal. To maintain the supplement without the 5 percent, the school system will have to draw upon its own reserves and put its budget in peril, he said.

Taylor said new teachers hired for the coming year have been promised the supplement.

"Follow through with the deal made to keep integrity in this process and in our relationship," Taylor said. "Any action taken otherwise is not acceptable."

According to state law, commissioners have until the last day of June to approve a budget.