BEAUFORT — It’s still far from being a done deal, but the Carteret County Board of Commissioners last week gave the green light for the town of Newport to pursue establishment of a new emergency medical services tax district to help raise additional revenue for the town’s fire and EMS department.
County emergency services director Stephen Rea appeared before county commissioners during their meeting Sept. 20 in Beaufort to present the request from Newport to establish a new taxing district. As proposed, it would have the same boundaries as the Newport fire district, which includes areas outside of the town’s corporate limits that are under county control, but still serviced by Newport fire and EMS.
Newport is currently under a five-year contract, set to expire July 1, 2024, with the county for fire and EMS support in the town’s extraterritorial jurisdiction. Costs are split 60/40 between the county and the town for covering the area. The addition of an EMS district would require a new five-year contract to be written and agreed upon by Newport and the county.
The Carteret County Fire and EMS Commission previously approved the town’s request in May, but it’s a long process to formally enact such a change, officials said. The earliest the new district would be able to take effect is the 2022-23 fiscal year.
“There is not currently an EMS tax district, we would have to establish one and define what that district includes,” county manager Tommy Burns said during discussions about the proposal last week. “We’re at the point in the process, to keep the ball rolling, we really need y’all to tell us, not tonight, but pretty soon, if this is the trail we want to go down because we have certain timelines that we would have to meet prior to adopting next year’s budget.”
Mr. Burns went on to say the process involves creating new maps, notifying property owners that would be affected by the change and holding multiple public hearings before county commissioners ultimately vote whether or not to establish the new district.
Mr. Rea said Newport has proposed setting the tax rate for the new EMS district at 7 cents per $100 of assessed property value, while lowering the fire district tax from 10 cents to 7 cents. That would effectively be a 14-cent overall fire/EMS tax rate for the district, a 40% increase over the current rate.
By statute, the maximum tax rate that can be imposed on a fire district is 10 cents, while 15 cents is the max for an EMS district. County commissioners could choose to approve different rates, up to the maximum.
At a rate of 7 cents, the Newport fire and EMS districts would each generate $326,459 in ad valorem tax annual revenue, giving the fire/EMS department an extra $232,418 per year over the current contracted amount. Officials with the town say they need the additional revenue to help meet increasing demands and expected population growth in the area.
County commissioners said they’ll want to see a more thorough breakdown of the numbers, including an annual budget for the Newport Fire and EMS Department, before they ultimately decide whether to approve the new tax district. However, they agreed by unanimous vote to direct Mr. Rea to continue his work with Newport researching requirements for the creation of the district.
Commissioner Chuck Shinn, who represents Newport on the county board, made the motion to continue the process and Commissioner Mark Mansfield seconded it.
Further requests from Newport, including a proposed district map and other related materials, may appear before commissioners at meetings in the coming months before culminating in a public hearing and final vote on the matter.
Contact Elise Clouser at email@example.com; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.