Cary News

No backlash yet for Apex’s proposed tax hike

Tax increases are usually met with public outcry but in Apex residents appear to accept the adage that you get what you pay for.

Some residents say they are willing to pay more to keep the town and its services in top shape. The Apex Town Council is considering a 5 cent tax rate increase –from 34 cents to 39 cents per $100 of assessed value. It would be the town’s first increase since 2008 and could cost the average homeowner an extra $120 per year.

The $2.2 million in new revenue will pay for 14 new positions, debt service, salary increases and rising fuel and health costs. The public will get a chance to weigh in on the proposal at a hearing Tuesday.

“Nobody likes higher taxes,” said Tom Hart, a real estate agent hit hard during the downturn.

His wife Ruth Hart chimed in, “But compared to a lot of other areas, Apex is pretty reasonable.”

The Harts have had to tighten their belts, but they said the increase would be worth it.

“Apex has good parks, and police and fire (services) and we want to keep it that way,” Ruth Hart said.

Tom Hart said he puts faith in the town council’s judgment.

“Given the mayor and the town council we have, if they feel a tax increase is needed, it must really be necessary,” he said.

Homeowner Karen Taylor said she didn’t know that much about the tax increase proposal, but said she would like the town to keep up with its current services.

“Apex is one of the towns where its population has an expectation of a certain quality of life,” she said. “Having the certainty that police and fire will be there when you call is worth the modest increase.”

Two new police detectives, two patrol officers, three firefighters and one assistant fire chief are all part of the proposed 2013 budget. Positions, the fire and police chiefs say, are needed to keep up with demand.

Apex has 58 sworn officers or 1.49 per 1,000 residents, according to Police Chief Jack Lewis’ report to the council. The average sworn officers per 1,000 residents is 2.5, for towns similar in size, said his report.

The number of case reports filed has increased from 2,287 in 2009 to 3,099 in 2011.

A staffing shortage is causing issues with follow-ups on domestic violence cases, responding to multiple incidents, and dealing with larcenies. In the past year Apex had a 59 percent increase in larcenies, mostly on unsecured property such as homes or vehicles, according to the chief’s report.

The fire department is also feeling the strain.

Last year the fire department responded to 2,664 calls. About 7.3 calls a day. In his report Fire Chief Mark Haraway said the department needs more firefighters to improve response to simultaneous calls. The fire department’s average response time to high priority calls is 5 minutes.

Apex resident Wagner Del Salto said he does mind the tax increase but recognizes that he has to pay for the services.

“I think it’s worth it, because of all of the services we have in Apex” he said. “And the tax rate is not as expensive compared to surrounding areas.”