Wake County

Wake County budget proposes a 5 percent real-estate tax increase

Wake County proposed a property tax hike Monday as it released its plan for the next year of government spending.

County Manager Jim Hartmann asked the Board of Commissioners for a 5 percent increase in county real-estate taxes, or 2.9 cents per $100 of property value.

The change would amount to about $64 for the owner of a home worth $220,000, the median home value for the county. It would be the second hike in a row, following a 4.4-cent increase last year.

This budget would be the second put in effect under Hartmann, and the first drafted entirely under his supervision. It is the first to be considered by the newly Democrat-dominated board.

The plan would spend $1.13 billion between July 1 and the end of June 2016.

“We have to meet the needs of our growing population,” Hartmann told the commissioners.

This would be the second billion-dollar county budget. Total general-fund spending increases by about $67 million, or 6.3 percent under the plan, compared to the current budget.

Hartmann said the budget resulted from a year of work.

“Not everything is going to return to the way it was before the economic downturn,” he said. “In some ways, we are still playing catch-up.”

Where would the money go?

Demand outstrips supply. County departments asked for about twice as much money as the county could give, Hartmann said.

▪  The Wake County Public School System requested a 14 percent increase of $48.3 million, but the budget proposal gives a smaller increase of 10 percent and $34.6 million.

Board chairwoman Christine Kushner would not say if she thought that sum would do the job. She said both boards need to hear from the public about the budget.

“We’re both committed to working as partners and collaborating together,” Kushner said.

▪  Hartmann’s budget increases funding for Wake Tech by $2.9 million, or about 18 percent.

▪  The Wake County Sheriff’s Office would get about $600,000 more, or about 1 percent, allowing for 13 new full-time positions. Some spending would improve staffing at the county’s jail.

“More and more people entering the facility have substance-abuse issues, mental health problems and other health concerns,” said Eric Curry, a county spokesman, in a video published alongside the budget.

▪  Emergency medical services would see an increase of $1.7 million, or about 5 percent, and 17 full-time employees.

▪  The county’s human services department, which is meant to ensure better public health, would add 19 full-time employee equivalents with a budget increase of $1.6 million, less than 1 percent.

▪  The county’s community services department would receive $1.7 million more, mostly to fund the opening of the Northeast Regional Library.

The budget makes an extra $1 million available for new library books, too.

More to do

The plan is not final, though. The county commissioners will hear from the public at hearings on at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., June 1 at the Wake County Commons, at 4011 Carya Drive in Raleigh.

The board will discuss the budget again at a 9 a.m. work session on June 8 before voting on the matter June 15.

CORRECTION: This article incorrectly stated that the Wake County Sheriff's Office would receive $400,000 in new funding under the proposed budget, compared to last year. The correct figure is about $600,000, which has been fixed in the story.

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Twitter: @KenneyNC