06/29/06 — Duplin passes budget; taxes up

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Duplin passes budget; taxes up

By Turner Walston
Published in News on June 29, 2006 1:48 PM

KENANSVILLE -- Duplin County Commissioners approved a budget Wednesday that raises the county's property tax rate by 3.5 cents for 2006-07.

The new tax rate is 81.5 cents per $100 worth of taxable property.

The budget dips into county reserves for $3.7 million.

An overflow crowd forced the commissioners' meeting to move to the Department of Social Services. Last week, more than 300 people crowded the auditorium at James Sprunt Community College during a public hearing on the budget.

On Wednesday, Commissioner L.S. Guy moved to approve the budget, with Commissioner Arliss Albertson seconding the motion.

Commissioners David Fussell and Zettie Williams voted against the measure, which was approved 4-2.

"This budget is just beyond what I can accept," Fussell said. He said commissioners would be passing a budget that was "resoundingly rejected by the citizens at James Sprunt last Monday night."

A budget must be adopted by June 30, and will go into effect on July 1.

"We are now at the 11th hour," Fussell said. "I don't have any 11th-hour solutions, but this budget should not be adopted."

Guy said the budget takes care of the most important items in the county.

"The things that we're spending it for are right within the priorities that we have set for Duplin County. Just about every department in Duplin County has cut back in the last four years," Guy said.

"We've pushed hard and stayed with it," he added. "At least it shows that there are priorities in Duplin County, and our people deserve that."

Fussell said the county has scattered funds across many good projects, but sometimes neglected priorities.

Commissioner Reginald Wells expressed hope that a fiscal oversight committee -- made up of commissioners and county residents -- will help commissioners avoid a similar situation next year.

Albertson said the board had done a poor job of communicating with county residents. He also criticized negativity toward the community.

Mrs. Wiliams agreed.

"We need to learn to respect each other," she said.

Wells said sometimes disagreements can spark progress.

"I think we can disagree, but also be civil afterwards. Out of conflict, great things can occur," he said.

Mrs. Williams thanked residents for attending Wednesday's meeting.

"It's your interest that helps us succeed in our county," she said.