Wake County taxpayers will lose slightly less money from their wallets than previously expected to repay the $810 million school construction bond issue voters approved in October.
Before the bond referendum, voters were told that paying off the debt would require a property tax rate increase this year of 4.86 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, not including 0.67 cents more in future years to operate those new schools. But county finance staff said Monday that factors such as growth in the tax base mean they’ll only need a tax increase of 4.4 cents this year.
“The recommended tax increase is lower than we thought we would need,” Nicole Kreiser, Wake’s debt and capital director, told the Wake County Board of Commissioners on Monday.
Based on an average assessed home value in Wake of $263,500, the slightly lower tax increase means a savings of $12.12 on the tax bill. This year will be the first time that property taxes have gone up in Wake since 2008.
After the bond issue was approved, commissioners said they’d explore whether they could reduce the size of the tax increase.
“It’s going in the right direction,” Phil Matthews, chairman of the board of commissioners, said of Monday’s budget news.
But Matthews, a Republican, said he doesn’t think the good news makes it any more likely that the commissioners will meet the increase that the Wake County school board has requested for its operating budget.
The school board has asked commissioners for a $39.3 million increase, with most of the new funding slated for a 3.5 percent pay raise for all school employees. It could cost as much as an additional 3-cent tax-rate increase to pay for the school board’s budget request.
Matthews said he doesn’t expect commissioners will approve any property tax increases other than those for the school bonds.
Support for the school board’s budget request has split the commissioners along partisan lines, with Republicans saying they don’t want to raise taxes any more and Democrats saying they need to consider doing so to help raise teacher pay.
“I want to give teachers a pay raise this year,” said Democratic Commissioner Betty Lou Ward. “We need to do something for them.”
On next Monday, new County Manager Jim Hartmann will present his first budget to commissioners, including the amount he proposes allotting to the school system. The commissioners will vote in June on the budget, which covers the coming fiscal year that starts in July.