Vance County approves 1-cent property tax increase

Jun. 23, 2014 @ 10:06 PM

Vance County commissioners approved employee raises and a 1-cent property tax increase with a 4-3 vote when they adopted the budget Monday.

Effective July 1, the ad valorem tax rate will increase from 78.2 cents per $100 valuation to 79.2 cents. With an additional $500,000 appropriated from fund balance, commissioners have a 2014-2015 budget of $53 million.

Ad valorem taxes make up 43.6 percent of Vance County's revenues, of which the school system, social services and public safety each take up about 25 percent.

At a work session June 13, commissioners Tommy Hester, Deborah Brown, Archie Taylor and Terry Garrison negotiated a tax increase they felt would meet the county's needs without burdening residents.

Commissioner Gordon Wilder said he would not consent to any tax increase.

Those who sided with Wilder and voted against the tax increase Monday had promised to vote against an increase from the start.

Commissioner Eddie Wright said senior citizens and low-income residents struggle to manage their property values already.

“They have worked hard over the years to get their property, and they want to hold on to it,” he said.

Commissioner Dan Brummitt reiterated his wishes to decrease the budget and stop using the fund balance.

“This budget is growing, but our county is now growing,” he said. “Our residents are struggling.”

For his part, Garrison said those who attended the work sessions did their best to accommodate everyone.

“We pretty much looked under every rock,” he said. “The process was lengthy, but it was indeed transparent. Everyone had an opportunity to investigate the options and also the consequences.”

The tax increase means about $10 extra in taxes each year per $100,000 of valuation.

This is the first rate change since fiscal year 2008-2009, when it decreased from 79.8 cents to 78.2 cents.

Vance County still has the lowest tax rate in the Tri-County.

During some 16 hours of budget work sessions, commissioners debated how to accommodate these departments' growing budget requests while also granting pay raises to their employees.

At the last budget work session June 13, County Manager Jerry Asycue said the solution was a tax increase.

The county increased the budget by $200,000 to add new employees in public safety and public service.

Additionally, commissioners added a 35-cent hourly wage increase — or $804 per year — for another $270,000.

The budget also includes:

• Increased coverage for employee health insurance.

• The Juvenile Crime Prevention Councils' request for additional funding to support its case management program, which recently lost funding from the state.

• The county's increased responsibility for the Henderson-Vance Recreation and Parks Department, with the financial investment rising from 45 percent to 55 percent in October per an agreement with Henderson.

• Increased security at Vance-Granville Community College.

• Maintenance and equipment upgrades.

Also during the meeting, the board approved by a 6-1 vote a $431,000 contract with Pearson Appraisal Services of Richmond, Virginia, to perform the 2016 revaluations.

Brummitt expressed his concerned for the poor performance the company demonstrated last year that resulted in incorrect table valuations and voted against the measure.

Garrison said he hoped the county can pay attention to the details this time to avoid those kind of mistakes.

“I don't want to be in a position where the board has to defend themselves against the county,” he said.

Contact the writer at dhairston@hendersondispatch.com.