proposed 4-cent increase in Dare County’s property tax rate is
necessary to catch up with long unmet needs, county officials say, but
the fiscal year 2018 budget proposal also reflects how well the county
has recovered from the recession.
2007-2008, we have run as frugal as we can run a budget,” said Dare
County Manager Bobby Outten in an interview. “We have improved our fund
balance to recommended levels. So now we’re at the point where those
things can’t wait any more.”
Outten presented his proposed spending plan at Monday’s meeting of the Dare County Board of Commissioners.
of the increase in the $158 million budget request covers $1.7 million
for bringing county employees salaries up to current market standards
and $1.6 million to upgrade woefully outdated needs for Emergency
said the EMS staffing and vehicle levels are the same as they were in
1997, yet over that same time frame, the call volume has jumped 81
percent. He also said that a county salary study was last conducted in
2005. In addition, the budget is addressing numerous deferred vehicle
costs and building maintenance needs.
EMS increases will be done over five years, he said, and the county salary increases will be handled in a two-year plan.
“We’re still operating frugally,” Outten added. “We just can’t postpone paying for those things in this budget any longer.”
expenses reflected in the budget proposal: the Board of Education
school funding formula, based on a projection of 100 new students, as
well as projected teacher pay increases of 5 percent, requires an
additional $678,653; maintenance of Hatteras Inlet, $236,082; merit pay
for county employees, $391,440; mandated increase in retiree
supplemental health costs, $164,552; and operating costs for the new
regional 911 communications center, $372,549.
the FY 2018 spending plan is approved, the property tax rate would
increase from 43 cents per $100 of valuation to 47 cents – the first
tax increase since 2011. For a $250,000 house, that translates to $100
more a year.
Statewide, Dare County ranks as the seventh lowest property tax rate. North Carolina has an average rate of 66.3 cents.
the county’s taxable property value is about $13.2 billion, an increase
in the tax base of $155 million over the prior year.
context of the devastating financial crash in 2007 and the state’s slow
economic recovery, Finance Director Dave Clawson said, the county is in
pretty good shape. For instance, he said, in 2016, the sales tax
revenue exceeded what it was in 2007 for the first time since the
recession. And the county credit rating was just upgraded from AA to
AA+ by independent financial agency Standard & Poors.
said that the county’s fund balance is projected to be back to 20.8
percent, which falls within the county’s fiscal policy of having a fund
balance (that is, assets minus liabilities) ranging from 19 percent to
21 percent. “During the recession, we got down to 13.5 percent,” he
has bounced back - although no one expects it to ever return to
pre-2007 days – but while the county continues to catch up, funds will
still be juggled in the next budget cycle.
just a little bit more than they need to balance ’18 and it’s just a
little less than they need to balance ’19,” Clawson said.
the finance director emphasized there is no plan to raise taxes in
those years. “We’ll add to the fund balance in ’18 and use some
of it in ’19,” he explained.
just around the corner, Dare County will start peeling off big chunks
of debt from past infrastructure projects, including construction of
school buildings. In 2020, the county debt obligation decreases by
$400,000; in 2021, it shaves off another $400,000 in debt; and in 2022,
“Other than beach nourishment, there’s no new debt in the capital improvement plans,” Clawson said.
no big projects are on the horizon, property revaluations will be
conducted again in 2020. Depending on how much, if at all, the county
tax office adjusts the value of property – that is, the tax base - it
could mean a whole new ballgame.
Clawson declined to comment on the potential impact of revaluation on future county budgets.
public hearing on the 2018-2019 proposed budget will be held on June 19
at 5:30 p.m. at the Dare County Administration building in Manteo.