02/06/07 — Duplin Commissioners consider tax cut

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Duplin Commissioners consider tax cut

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on February 6, 2007 1:48 PM

Duplin County's property tax rate hasn't been lowered yet, but on Monday, the county Board of Commissioners took a step toward dropping it from 80.5 cents-per-100-dollar-value to at least 79 cents.

Voting on a motion made by Commissioner Cary Turner, the rest of the board unanimously decided to direct County Manager Mike Aldridge to prepare a 2007-08 budget by May 7, that is based on a maximum 79-cent tax rate, uses no more than $1.85 million from the fund balance and gives county employees a 2 percent salary increase.

It was a slightly updated motion from what Turner proposed in December when the board voted to defer consideration of the issue until a later date.

He explained that with the board reviewing this year's budget calendar Monday, he felt it was the proper time to bring the issue back up.

"We are starting to work toward the budget," he said. "When I ran for commissioner, 70 percent of my district voted for me and the majority of them want lower taxes.

"I feel in representing the people in my district, this is what I'm obligated to do."

His motion was seconded by Harold Raynor, but it didn't pass without some debate.

Commissioner Reginald Wells wondered how exactly Turner had arrived at 79 cents, saying that it was his understanding that 77 cents was considered the highest tax rate the county should have.

Chairman David Fussell agreed that 79 cents was too high, but said that it was a good starting point.

"If I had made the motion it would have been 77 cents," Fussell said. "I think that's high enough. But as I understand it, 79 is the maximum it would be."

Commissioner L.S. Guy initially said he felt it was too early in the budget process to be trying to set a tax rate, but based on his vote, eventually changed his mind.

Commissioners Zettie Williams and Harold Raynor, though, supported Turner's motion.

"There's nothing wrong with asking (Aldridge) to do it and if he does, then we'll have the opportunity to vote it up or down," Williams said. "Let him prepare a budget for us to look at and decide."

And that, Turner explained, was all he wanted to do -- give Aldridge a direction to work toward at the start of the budget process and then, based on the results, make a decision.

Nothing in Monday's vote bound the commissioners to a 79-cent tax rate.

"It's just for consideration. I just want to see if it can be done," Turner said. "It's up to the commissioners to approve it. I will vote for 79 cents or less -- nothing over 79 cents and I'd love for it to be lower.

"I wouldn't have the people's best interests at heart if I didn't try to do this."