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Wake County manager recommends nearly 10 percent property tax increase

Wake County residents could see a nearly 10 percent property-tax-rate increase under the county manager’s recommended budget.

The 6.36-cent increase, which includes 3.8 cents approved last fall, would cover increased funding to the Wake County Public School System and other county priorities.

The proposed budget would raise the county tax rate from 65.44 cents per $100 of assessed property value to 71.8 cents per $100.

The owner of a $300,000 house would pay $2,154 in county property taxes, a $191 increase.

The Wake County commissioners got their first look at County Manager David Ellis’ $1.47 billion budget Monday night.

“I’ve spent the past year in my new role analyzing the demand for the core county services we provide to the public,” Ellis said. “My budget recommendation reflects the priority needs we must address to deliver those services at the level our growing population expects and as state regulations require.”

The main drivers of the budget include the county’s population growth, new state regulations and “unfunded state mandates,” according to Ellis’ budget presentation. And while sales tax and property tax revenues increased by 3% — resulting in $31.1 million in new revenue — there was $83 million in budget requests, including $48.9 million from the school system.

Voters backed the 3.8-cent property tax rate increase to fund a total of $1.1 billion in bonds to fund WCPSS and Wake Technical Community College’s school construction and the county’s park, open space and greenway efforts.

The board voted to increase the property tax rate by nearly 4 cents last year to increase funding to the school system and for its affordable-housing efforts. All of the materials, including the more than 400-page budget, can be found at www.wakegov.com/budget

Education

The recommended funding includes $36.5 million in new money for the school system. That falls short of WCPSS Superintendent Cathy Moore’s proposed $48.9 million increase in county funding for the school system. The Wake County Board of Education will vote on its recommended budget Tuesday.

The county’s per pupil funding would be $2,878, an increase of $176, in the recommended budget.

The total investment to WCPSS is $507.5 million and marks the first time the county’s contribution has been over $500 million. The recommended budget also includes $1.7 million in new funding for Wake Tech.

Before the budget was presented, some community members spoke about what they would like to see in the budget this year.

Kristin Beller, president of the Wake chapter of the North Carolina Association of Educators, said staff need more student services professionals like nurses, social workers and counselors and all employees within the school system need to be paid $15 per hour.

“We ask that you prioritize the needs of our students and staff in your budget and plan to raise per pupil spending to get Wake County into the top ten for county-level contributions instead of the bottom 20,” she said.

Public Health and Safety

Ellis recommends increasing the funding for Emergency Medical Services by $4 million to hire more than 20 employees and buy five new ambulances. Calls for EMS services have increase by 18% in the last four years.

The Wake County Sheriff’s Office would add eight positions including four nurses and a resident care technician to “provide better health care and monitoring” for inmate with substance abuse or mental health challenges and inmates in the main medical observation area.

The recommended budget also calls for 14 positions in the county’s child welfare vision to lower the average caseload of the social workers and 6.5 positions in economic self sufficiency staff to meet state requirements.

Four new positions would also be added to meet the increasing demand for well water testing, according to the budget. Wake County estimated that thousands of wells in Wake County likely had “unhealthy levels’ of chemicals last year.

Other notable items:

$8.3 million increase to the local Board of Elections’ Office to issue voter photo ID cards, “take additional steps to process absentee ballots” and follow near early voting schedules. That also includes adding six new positions to “respond to historic demand for voter registration.”

$1.7 million increase for IT security to address the increased risk of hacking and ransoms.

$3.9 million increase in “organizational support,” including a 3% pay raise for county employees.

$6.3 million increase to open three new libraries, expand hours at six libraries and end late fees

What’s next

Public hearings are set for 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. May 20 and the commissioners will vote on the budget at 5 p.m. June 3. The new budget runs from July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020.

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