Property taxes increase in New Hanover County

NEW HANOVER COUNTY -- Tuesday night, Wilmington City Council joined New Hanover County Commissioners in raising property taxes.

Members passed the 2008-09 budget, which includes a 3.25 cent property tax increase, the same amount county commissioners voted for on Monday.

This means, a homeowner with a $250 thousand home will see an increase of less than $7 a month, or about $81 a year.

County commissioners said they didn't really have a choice, and some residents aren't happy about it.

The county's actual spending is going down by a million dollars, but the new money is needed to make up for a mistake in figuring last year's tax rate.

County Manager Bruce Shell said most of the tax increase is going to make up for the deficit in last year's budget.

"You either had to restore that money or cut services so the commission decided to restore services," said Shell.

Commissioner Bill Caster reluctantly approved the tax increase.  He said the county has little choice, because so much of the budget is mandated by the state.

Since a lower rate was approved, the difference the county will need to make up is about $800 thousand.

This amount will come from a county-maintained fund that assists New Hanover County Schools, but will not affect the school's budget.

The council said 2.25 cents will help offset the tax evaluation error made by county staff, and the other penny will help pay for pay raises for city employees.

The increase will take effect July 1.

Reported by Lynda Figueredo