While some asked for more money for schools, most speakers at Monday’s public hearings questioned a nearly 10% property tax rate increase in Wake County’s proposed budget.
The anti-tax speakers — some holding homemade signs and wearing American-themed costumes — called on Wake County leaders to reject County Manager David Ellis’ proposed 6.36-cent tax-rate increase.
Ellis’ $1.47 billion spending plan would raise the county tax rate from 65.44 cents to 71.8 cents per $100 of assessed property value. That increase includes 3.8 cents to fund the education and parks bonds backed by voters this past fall.
The owner of a $300,000 house would pay $2,154 in county property taxes, a $191 increase.
“We heard from very passionate people on both sides and look forward to the continued conversation,” County Commissioner Chair Jessica Holmes said. “We consider any tax increase with the understanding the burden it will impose on our most vulnerable citizens and senior citizens. We will be going through this budget with those individuals in mind.”
A majority of the tax increase would go toward the Wake County Public School System, which would get $36.5 million more in local money for the fiscal year starting July 1.
But that fell short of the $48.3 million in additional money the Wake County Board of Education requested. Several speakers asked the commissioners to raise their taxes to “fully fund’ the school system’s request, drawing boos from the anti-tax crowd at least once.
Wake County is trying to cover the failures of the state legislature’s unfunded mandates, said Kristin Beller, president of the Wake County chapter of the N.C. Association of Educators. She said she finds it hard to believe that people would move here because of the quality school system, low taxes, excellent medical care and more and not be willing to invest more.
“I am enthusiastically asking tonight to increase my taxes 7 cents [per $100 valuation],” said Beller, which she said would fully fund the schools.
Angela Scioti said Wake County residents were getting a deal for all of the added services residents would receive.
Angela Humphries, one of the tax increase opponents, asked if the same people who asked for a tax increase during last year’s budget public hearings and at Monday’s public hearing actually gave more to the county than was required.
There’s nothing stopping you, she told them, from giving the county more than what is owed on their tax bill. Her daughter, Isabella, and her friend Josephine Burk wore an American-themed, Uncle Sam outfit asking if the commissioners were looking out for their future.
Li Zheng said he’s lived in Wake County for more than 20 years and enjoys how affordable it is compared to other locations. “To increase the taxes so much this year, our quality of life is decreased,” he said.
The Wake County Republican Party held a press conference before the county’s first public hearing Monday, with many people holding handmade signs.
Wake County leaders are making it impossible for people to participate in the American Dream and buy a home, said Emanuela Prister during the Republican press conference.
“As a homeowner I am absolutely against raising our property taxes,” she said. “Our property value is going up and our property taxes are going up on top of that. And you cannot pretend to be for minorities, you cannot pretend to be for home ownership, you cannot pretend to be for young people and you cannot pretend to be for the elderly when you raises taxes on property.”
All of the materials, including the more than 400-page budget, can be found at www.wakegov.com/budget