Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Currituck Keeps Property Taxes the Same

One piece of good news in this economy is that property owners in the 4WD area won't have an increase in their taxes this year. Through of series of cuts, reserves, and responsibility, the tax rate will remain at $.32 per $100.00. Below is the full article from the Daily Advance:

No tax hike in Currituck's proposed $65M budget
Scanlon cites lower spending

CURRITUCK — Currituck County Manager Dan Scanlon says it pays to have a significant reserve account, and Currituck is proving that in next year’s county budget.

Unlike their peers in neighboring counties, Currituck commissioners don’t face having to raise property taxes or fees to balance the county’s proposed $65 million spending plan, and one of the biggest reasons, Scanlon says, is the county’s decision to keep sufficient funds in reserve.

“When we were in the boom of the economy we took a lot of heat for having reserves; now we can see how wise it was to have reserves,” Scanlon said in his budget message to Currituck commissioners earlier this week. “We certainly don’t seem to be having some of the struggles our (local) communities (are having) because we’ve been able to maintain adequate reserves.”

The Chowan County Board of Commissioners voted earlier this week to raise that county’s property tax rate by 3.5 cents next year. The Pasquotank County commissioners are also considering raising property taxes to balance the county’s budget for next year.

While other counties are cutting jobs and trimming workers’ salaries and hours, Currituck plans to give its employees a cost-of-living raise next year.

“We’re probably one of the few counties in northeast North Carolina that is fortunate enough to be able to provide a 2 percent cost-of-living raise for our county employees,” Scanlon said.

Currituck’s property tax rate remains at 32 cents per $100 of property valuation in next year’s proposed budget. That means someone with a $100,000 house would pay $320 in property taxes next year.

Crafting a balanced budget for next year without any tax or fee hikes was even more of a challenge, Scanlon said, because of the current economic recession. With 66 percent of the county’s tax base on the Outer Banks, Currituck’s revenues are significantly affected by swings in the real estate market, and right now the swing has been downward, he said.

“Our tax base expands for one of two reasons — people buying selling real-estate, or people building something on the land,” he said. “Land transfer taxes peaked in 2005 and ... (there has been a) drastic drop-off in land transfer taxes from 2005 to (the present.) Not only is the number of transactions decreasing, the values of the transactions themselves are decreasing.”

Sales tax revenue has also plateaued, Scanlon said.

“Sales tax has not only become flat but we’re actually starting to see a drop in sales tax,” he said.

Currituck’s 32-cent property tax rate generated more than $25 million last year, while sales taxes contributed about $4 million.

One thing that has helped, Scanlon said, is the county’s decision to lower overall spending over the past seven years.

“We have been systematically lowering our budget versus getting to a point where we’re absorbing a big hit at one time,” Scanlon said.

Next year’s proposed spending plan, for example, includes a $44 million general fund budget — a 6 percent decrease from the current year’s budget that ends June 30. The overall budget is about 4.8 percent less than this year’s spending plan.

Education is the single largest expense in next year’s proposed budget — $10 million. The spending plan also allocates $5 million for emergency medical services, another $5 million for the Currituck Sheriff’s Department, $4 million for the Department of Social Services and about $2 million for the county jail.

The county also had to absorb an 11.71 percent increase in health insurance costs for county workers.

The budget proposal also spends $310,000 developing the 4-H Cultural Life Center — commonly referred to as the “horse farm.” Monies have also been included to upgrade the Planning Department’s Unified Development Ordinance and develop the Maple Commerce Park. Another spending priority for next year is development of a community center, Scanlon said.

Besides the county’s proposed $44 million general fund, Currituck anticipates an occupancy tax fund of $7 million and an enterprise fund of $11 million.