May 4, 2016

Dare's proposed budget leaves tax rate
unchanged -- except for north Buxton


By IRENE NOLAN


Dare County manager Bobby Outten presented his proposed 2017 to the Board of Commissioners at their meeting on Monday, May 2, noting that the overall property tax rate will remain unchanged.

However, in the proposal, property owners in a new service district in north Buxton would pay 25 cents more per $100 of value to help pay for a 2.5-mile beach nourishment project that is planned for next year.

Dare County's base tax rate is 43 cents per $100 of valuation.  Property owners also pay additional taxes for fire service districts and some also pay for community center districts.

In a phone call after the meeting, Outten stressed that at this point, the 25 cents per $100 is "just a proposal" for the service district.

"It's a place-holder for budgeting purposes," he said, noting that the commissioners have neither given final approval for the district nor have they given him guidance on how much the tax might be if they do move forward with it.

Outten said he chose the 25 cents because it is close to the average that is being paid for nourishment by oceanfront property owners in special tax districts in the county's northern beach towns that also propose projects for next year.

The commissioners first proposed a tax service district that would have included only 35 oceanfront properties valued at $17.4 million to help pay for the nourishment project, which is expected to cost a total of about $25 million.

At a special meeting on April 13, the board voted to expand the district to include  properties in a triangle bordered by Old Lighthouse Road, Highway 12 (and a few properties west), and the ocean.  This area includes 137 properties, valued at $41.4 million.

Before the commissioners can enact the special service district, the board must have a public hearing, which is scheduled for Monday, May 16, a regularly scheduled meeting, which will begin at 5 p.m. at the Fessenden Center in Buxton. The public hearing is set for 5:30 p.m.

If the special district is approved, the commissioners will set and approve the tax rate during the  ongoing budgeting process.

A public hearing on the proposed budget is set for Monday, June 6, during the regularly scheduled commissioners' meeting that starts at 9 a.m.  Hatteras Islanders can make public comment via a remote hookup from the Fessenden Center in Buxton.

At the beginning of his presentation, Outten noted that the proposed budget represents figures for the second year of a two-year spending plan that the board approved last year.  He said his proposal contains "very few changes" from what was approved last year.

Outten noted that 2017 "is expected to continue to reflect an improved economy with all revenues back to or above the pre-recession levels of fiscal year 2007." Expenditures, he said, are pressured by "pre-65 retiree medical costs" and the need to replenish the fund balances of both the general fund and the insurance fund.

The manager's total for the next year's general fund budget is $104,202,977, an increase of 2.18 percent over this year.  He also noted that if four items are removed -- health insurance and retirement increases, a salary study for county employees, and an increase in allocations to the Dare County Schools -- the budget is a decrease of .33 percent over this year.

Outten said next year's tax base is expected to be $13.065 billion, an increase of 1.24 percent over this year.  It equates to an additional $752,851 in property tax revenue. Sales and occupancy tax revenues are also expected to increase, he said. Occupancy taxes are expected to be up by $261,495 or 2.75 percent.

The county's general fund balance is projected at 17.38 percent, which is $1 million below the target of 19 percent.  The fund balance allows the county to maintain a solid credit rating and is also important in cases of a major disaster.

Other budget highlights:
  • The total school budget is set at $22.7 million. The county is assuming a 3 percent state-mandated teacher salary raise, which has not yet been set.  If the state raise goes up or down, Outten said, the budget would have to be amended.  This school spending also includes $500,000 in deferred maintenance projects.
  • The budget includes $750,000 for a salary study and benefit increases, starting in September.  Outten said the county will start at the lowest salary needing adjusting and work its way up.
  • The budget reflects a planned $3 million transfer from the beach nourishment fund to the county's inlet maintenance fund.
  • Also included in the budget is a 2 percent increase in water rates.

Click here to read the county manager's full budget message to the Board of Commissioners.


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