Pamlico County: ⇑ Everything’s Going Up (Including Your Property Tax) ⇑

In 5-2 vote, Commissioners set higher rate. Riggs & Ollison oppose hike.

Voting For Higher Tax

Voting Against Higher Tax

News Commentary

BAYBORO – Citing concerns Monday night that a dreaded hurricane (or two) this season might impale the county’s ‘fund balance’ (government-speak for an overall savings account), five County Commissioners – Missy Baskervill, Keri Forrest, Doug Brinson, Candy Bohmert, and Pat Prescott – abandoned their early April pledge NOT TO INCREASE property taxes for the coming 2024-2025 Fiscal Year.

The back-pedaling started last week during a somewhat obscure June 12 budget workshop. In a bit of a surprise, Baskervill won approval for a motion to hike the rate of tax paid by all county property owners. Some citizens who attended the session, which was open to the public, felt as though the push resembled backroom politics.

Only Commissioners Ed Riggs, Jr. and Carl Ollison refused to renege on their commitments. Each man voted no Monday night to the new budget, failing to derail Baskervill’s higher annual tax levy of 64.5 cents for every $100 of real estate and personal property valuations. Prior to his vote, Riggs read aloud from a prepared statement – which can be seen below.

On a home valued at $200,000, the tax owed now jumps from $1250 to $1290 per year. County Manager Tim Buck expects an extra $400,000 in revenue, which reduces (but does not eliminate) a hefty budget-balancing appropriation from savings.

From Commissioner Ed Riggs, Jr.

I would like to thank the County Manager, County Finance officer, all the department heads and staff for their hard work in helping us with this budget. They have done all we have asked, sometimes more than once, to provide us with all the information we requested.

We all knew throughout the course of this budget year that expenses are now outpacing revenue. I believe it was our job to look at ways to cut expenses and raise revenue in a way that is less burdensome to the public. The public expects certain services to be provided at a quality level for their tax dollars. No one likes a property tax increase, although sometimes it is necessary. I believe we are expected to do everything we can before we raise that tax rate.

On April 1st of this year, all seven of us took the first step to raise revenue by directing the Board of Elections to place on the November ballot a referendum to increase the local sales tax by one quarter of one percent. This will be voted on by the citizens of this county. If passed, it is estimated to raise approximately $400,000, about the same as the 2-cent property tax increase in the budget. The resolution that we passed back in April read in part “Pamlico County Board of Commissioners recognizes the local option sales tax does not burden the property owners as is done when increasing the local property tax rate.”

The sales tax option excludes gas, prescription medications, and groceries and I do believe it is the better option. Strategically, if we want to give that option a chance, we should link the sales tax to help fund public safety and school needs. Passing the budget with a property tax increase in my opinion hurts any chances of the sales tax option passing. I don’t see the public wanting a second tax increase in one year. I prefer not to consider a property tax increase until after the sales tax option is decided in November. It’s an honest difference of opinion.

Our school system got a lot of attention during this budget cycle. I recognize that there are legitimate concerns by some, and good questions asked. I would suggest that anyone from the public who has questions or concerns about the school budget and how they spend federal, state, or local tax dollars attend the Board of Education meetings and talk with those on that Board. There are 7 elected officials on the Board of Education, elected by the citizens of this county. They ultimately approve their budgets and make the local request for funds. Specific questions should be directed there.

Cutting the Pamlico County School System’s local funds by $1 million dollars, or even a half million dollars below last year’s appropriation, without dialogue between this Board and the elected Board of Education and not knowing how it would affect operations would have been reckless! Perhaps joint meetings would be in order from time to time to better understand everyone’s point of view.