New Hanover County approves tax rate change in 2021-2022 budget

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 Monday evening to adopt a $457 million budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

The vote means homeowners in New Hanover County could be paying more each year in property taxes.

The budget actually decreases the property tax rate per $100 of assessed value by $0.08 compared to the 2020-2021 budget. However, the approved rate is $0.05 higher than a revenue-neutral tax rate.

Property values in the county were also reassessed for 2021, increasing by about 33% from 2017.

Several people including former commissioner and current State Representative Ted Davis spoke out during a public hearing, asking the commissioners to reconsider the tax rate.

“Step back and work on a revenue-neutral budget that will not include any tax increase nor a salary increase,” Davis asked commissioners.

“The fact that we’re looking at raising average tax rates of 12 percent on property owners in New Hanover County is ridiculous,” said 24-year-old homeowner Nick Craig. “It makes absolutely no sense and it sets up Wilmington to not be financially sustainable in the future.”

Commission Chair Julia Olson-Boseman argues the tax rate is appropriate and will go toward items like teacher pay. The budget will increase teacher supplements from an average of $4,183 a year to an average of $9,000 a year, placing New Hanover County at the very top in the state for teacher supplements.

“I thought it was kind of disgusting for somebody to come up and stand here here publicly and complain about the tax rate when their house just went up to $1.2 million in value,” Olson-Boseman said. “I don’t feel sorry for people who are living in million dollar houses and are complaining about people like me trying to take care of everyone.”

New Hanover County Republican Party Chair Will Knecht believes many of the points made in favor of the budget are misguided.

“It was incredible, many of the arguments that the commissioners themselves made in favor of this massive tax increase actually were arguments against it,” Knecht said. “When you give teachers a stipend and a raise and yet you raise their property tax, you dull the impact.

Commission vice-chair made a motion to delay the vote in order to find different funding for some budget items. That motion failed 3-2.

Olson-Boseman and Commissioners Jonathan Barfield and Bill Rivenbark voted in favor of the budget. Hays and Commissioner Rob Zapple voted against it.

“I wanted to have different funding sources so that this didn’t fall strictly on the private property owner’s backs,” Hays said. “It was not a vote against education by any stretch of the imagination.”

Commissioners also approved a raise for themselves.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the numbers from the county:

  • Invests $121.5 million in New Hanover Public Schools, increasing per pupil spending to $3,434, adding three more Pre-K classrooms, and increasing teacher supplements from an average of $4,183 a year to an average of $9,000 a year, placing New Hanover County at the very top in the state for teacher supplements. More details about the county’s investments in education can be found in Chair Olson-Boseman’s editorial here.
  • Provides $22.5 million to Cape Fear Community College for operating expenses and debt service.
  • Supports 35 nonprofit agencies with $1.05 million in funding and an additional three nonprofits with $278,231 for year two of three of the county’s Social Impact Fund pilot program.
  • Provides $816,422 in strategic economic development initiatives that will encourage private investment, support small business retention, expansion and recruitment, develop an apprenticeship program, bring more diverse and higher-wage jobs, and enhance quality of life.
  • Funds $4.1 million for new multi-use trails and the development of Hanover Pines Nature Park.
  • Allocates more than $10 million in new health and safety enhancements that are focused on infrastructure and technology needs, materials and tools to plan, prepare for and respond to emergencies, an Emergency Logistics Center, and 21 new county positions in Health and Human Services and the Sheriff’s Office to directly address diversity, workloads and mental health.
  • Lowers the fire services tax rate for residents in the unincorporated county to 7.25 cents and allocates $124,500 for a diversity program within Fire Rescue that focuses on increasing minority recruitment in partnership with Cape Fear Community College.
  • Keeps the landfill tip fee at $48 per ton and invests in a new Landfill entrance and customer convenience site at a cost of $2.8 million.
  • Prioritizes the county’s 1,891 employees by investing in them through fair pay and benefits.
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