06/18/07 — County to talk taxes at meeting Tuesday

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County to talk taxes at meeting Tuesday

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on June 18, 2007 1:45 PM

On Tuesday, Wayne County residents will have the opportunity to tell the Board of Commissioners what they think about the proposed 2007-08 budget, and if the discussions around Goldsboro and other communities are any indication, most people are not looking forward to seeing their property taxes increase.

"They're too high already. They need to do more with what they've already got," said Shirley Matthews of Pikeville.

Currently the county's tax rate is 73.5 cents per $100 value.

Originally, county Manager Lee Smith had proposed raising that rate by five cents.

At the time, he explained that, with revenues growing at only 2.8 percent and the county's operating costs being cut by $890,000, the county was already operating on a tight budget and the tax increase was necessary for schools ($20.4 million), Medicaid ($8.3 million) and other social service costs.

But after examining the budget line item by line item with the commissioners and other county officials, Smith was able to go back, find a few more areas that could be cut and lower his proposed increase to 2.9 cents.

If approved, that would make the tax rate 76.4 cents per $100 value.

Still, dropping the proposed increase from five cents to three isn't making it any easier for Ms. Matthews to accept.

"It doesn't make it feel any better. They go for the big bucks and everybody protests and they drop it down. That's probably what they had in mind to begin with," she said.

And that seemed to be the common consensus -- that even at 76.4 cents, the tax rate would be too high.

"I'm not for raising taxes period," said Deborah Moore of Fremont.

"When the county starts managing what they've got, then they can ask for more," Salem Church Road resident William Sawrey added.

Several people wondered why the school system needs even more money. Others complained about the county's mandated expenses like Medicaid and other social service programs.

Many of the county's elderly residents living on fixed incomes are worried about the strain a tax increase will put on their pockets.

"It just makes it harder for people like myself who are retired," said Darrell Marshall of Goldsboro.

Other residents, though, said they're willing to pay a little more as long as it's going for necessary expenses -- and there's nothing else that can be cut out of the budget.

"Three cents is a little better than five cents. You hope they wouldn't have to have any type of increase, but taxes is where the money comes from. I only hope that it's really justified," said Charles Anderson of the Patetown community.

And the fact that the commissioners are already trying to reduce the rate increase is a good sign, added Tamara Carlisle of Goldsboro.

"If they found that (first two cents), they can go back and find some more," she said. "I'm all for supporting the school system and all that. Just show us you're trying to do your part. I'm sure we'll be willing to help if needed, but show us you're trying to help us."

The public hearing on the $107.6 million budget will begin at 9:15 a.m. in the commissioners' meeting room in the county's courthouse.

Once the hearing is closed, the board will continue with the rest of its meeting, including consideration of the Wayne County Transportation Committee's seven identified long-term needs, including completion of the U.S. 70 bypass and continued upgrading of U.S. 117, U.S. 13 and U.S. 40.

The meeting will begin with the commissioners' briefing session at 8 a.m.