BEAUFORT — Anticipating more than $1.5 million in budget impacts from revenue losses due to the novel coronavirus pandemic,Carteret County is considering a 2-cent property tax increase for the upcoming 2020-21 fiscal year.
The increase would raise the property tax rate from 31 to 33 cents per $100 of assessed property value. It would be the first increase since 2016-17, when the county raised the rate from 30 to 31 cents. Even with the increase, the county would still have the lowest county property tax rate in the state.
County Finance Director Dee Meshaw presented the recommendation as part of the overall proposed budget to the Carteret County Board of Commissioners during the board’s regular monthly meeting Monday evening in Superior Courtroom 2 of the administration building. The yearly tax-and-spend plan must be adopted before the beginning of the new fiscal year, Wednesday, July 1.
“This was the hardest budget I’ve done in 25 years I’ve been doing local government budgets,” Ms. Meshaw said. “The economic shutdown really is what made this budget so challenging.”
County Manager Tommy Burns noted the county anticipates a net loss of about $1.65 million in revenues as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, including an estimated $800,000 in lost sales tax revenues.
“Another big hit for us was investment earnings,” Mr. Burns said. “Our investment earnings have increased steady until March and you can just see the fallout, so that’s a consideration.”
Ms. Meshaw said in preparing the budget, her priorities were to maintain the current level of services, budget revenues “conservatively” and implement the countywide property revaluation carried out this year.
According to the county, the preliminary assessed property value is $16.54 billion countywide. One cent of tax generates approximately $1.6 million.
As proposed, the county’s fiscal year 2020-21 budget totals $123.16 million between all funds, a $38.13 million decrease from the current fiscal year. The decrease is largely because a number of big-ticket items were completed this year, including phase two of the beach nourishment project, dredging projects and grant-funded land acquisitions.
The general fund is the single largest budget fund at $99.02 million, a 0.14% increase, or about $140,000, over this fiscal year. Income from property taxes make up the largest share of the general fund revenues at $54.61 million, or 55.15%. Other major sources of revenue are sales and other taxes, intergovernmental sources, such as state and federal grants, and permits and fees.
The proposed fund balance, used to balance revenues and expenses, is $1.6 million, $3.7 million less than the current fiscal year.
The single largest proposed general fund expenditure is for education, including Carteret County Public Schools and Carteret Community College, at $27.25 million. When debt service is added, education expenditures total $33.53 million, or 33.86% of the general fund.
Human services is the next largest proportion of the general fund budget at $18.79 million, or 18.98%, followed by public safety and general government. Other expenditures include environmental protection, economic development, transportation and recreation.
Other funds include the special revenue funds, encompassing rescue districts, fire districts and occupancy tax, the capital projects fund and the enterprise fund, which includes water.
Ms. Meshaw said there were numerous position requests from various county departments that could not be accommodated in the proposed budget, but she does recommend new full-time positions for information technology, the tax department, the Carteret County Area Transit System and public library system. In addition, the budget recommends two new detention officers and a detention officer supervisor for the sheriff’s office. It also includes a new public health nurse position for the health department.
A copy of the proposed budget is available on the county’s website at carteretcountync.gov.
The board commissioners will hold a public hearing on the recommended budget at a special meeting beginning at 6 p.m. Monday, June 1.
Contact Elise Clouser at email@example.com; by phone at 252-726-7081; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.