A proposed tax increase was presented by the New Hanover County Manger Chris Coudriet for next year's budget.
The proposed five cent increase would raise the property taxes from 55.4 cents to 60.4 cents.
Coudriet said that the tax increase does not have to take place this fiscal year, but suggested it should be increased the following year to cover the county's debts.
It was pointed out the tax base and the tax rate have remained relatively constant over the years. County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield said a tax hike is inevitable to cover the recent bonds towards county parks and Cape Fear Community college projects.
"It's often said that everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die," Barfield began. "Voters have passed bond referendum after bond referendum to provide great things for our communities, whether it's our parks, whether it's our community colleges, and once you pass a bond that debt incurs and you've got to have resources to pay those bills, if you don't have the resources in place to pay those bills, you've got to pay those services," he continued.
The budget also places a large emphasis on education. The increase in expenditures are driven by increased school system enrollment and movement toward a defined per pupil allocation that will enhance school performance and facilitate more defined school planning. The increased funding recommended for the New Hanover County Public Schools and CFCC is $9 million, which is equivalent to 3 cents on the tax rate. Also the proposed budget covers increases in teachers' salaries.
The Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners are still working on a possible school bond referendum for November 2014.
The budget also includes the expansion of the law enforcement evidence room, the widening of the Hugh MacRae trails, the construction of Ogden Skate Park, and grants for the Middle Sound Loop and south Smith Creek trails.
The county manager talked about New Hanover being a model of good governance recommending a 2 percent market adjustment that follows a performance assessment tool and a modified health insurance plan.
New DSS positions were also proposed in the budget to help with the NC Fast Program, 8 additional workers were suggested.
The funding also supports 9 new positions for fire service operations.
A public hearing to discuss the County's budget is set for June 2. The approval of the budget is scheduled for June 16.
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