New Hanover Co. budget talks get off to tense start
WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Could your property taxes be on the rise? They could be in New Hanover County, as the county unveiled its new budget proposal Monday.
In it a proposed 5-cent tax increase and that brought out some fireworks at the meeting, because on the county commission there appear to be two very different ideas of how you get to a balanced budget.
A tense start to budget negotiations as Commissioner Woody White and Chairman Jonathan Barfield let their opinions be known.
“That is not a justification, in my opinion, for raising taxes,” White said of voter approved bonds.
“Recognize that we have to pay our bills,” Barfield countered. “Our citizens are smarter than we give them credit for.”
On the table is a 5-cent tax increase to pay for voter approved bonds that have funded area parks and an expansion of Cape Fear Community College.
“I have a hard time believing that voters in our community are that naïve that they are not educated enough to know that if they pass a total of $342 million worth of bonds that they don’t have to be paid for,” Barfield, a Democrat, said.
Republican Woody White says tax increases are not the answer.
“The easy solution is to raise taxes, but it is the wrong solution,” White said.
Barfield appeared to show his support for the tax increase during Monday’s meeting along with a dislike for Commissioner White’s political views.
“When I hear people talk about how they are fiscally conservative, I really don’t know what that means,” Barfield said. The statement prompted White to laugh out loud.
“The tension isn’t personal, until he makes demagogic statements like not raising taxes will quote cripple our community or bankrupt us. That’s reckless, and it is false,” White said.
Others, like Commissioner Rob Zapple, wouldn’t say whether they supported the tax increase, but did weigh in on Barfield’s and White’s heated discussion.
“I think if you listen carefully to the two of those points of view we heard tonight, both of those gentlemen want the same thing. They want the county to prosper,” Zapple said.
Also in the budget proposal is a one-percent pay increase for veteran teachers.
The commissioners will have plenty more discussion finalizing the budget before it’s suggested approval date of June 22.