New Hanover County Budget Passes with Two-Cent Increase

Jun 22, 2015

New Hanover County residents will see a two-cent property tax increase in the next fiscal year. 

The budget ordinance squeaked through this morning on a three-to-two vote.

Commissioner Woody White has long said he would vote against a tax increase, and he’s spent the last several months making his case.  His proposal would spend down the fund balance, delay the issuance of  about $92 million in bonds, and limit employee pay raises. 

White argues his ideas, which include spending about one and a half million dollars of the County’s rainy day fund, would eliminate the need for a tax increase. 

"What I recall from our work sessions is that that would not bring us beneath our 21% fund balance policy.  But if it does, I can’t imagine that our bond rating agencies would lower our rating over what represents a very small and miniscule overall percentage of our cash."

Commissioner Beth Dawson says she voted for the recommended budget because she’s risk-averse and the county is forced to make decisions now without the benefit of an adopted state budget. 

"With the issues that are going on in Raleigh as far as the redistribution of our sales tax revenues, as far as other decisions that the General Assembly may make, that will send down the pipeline to New Hanover County there is still quite a bit of uncertainty as far as the revenue expectations we may see coming forth."

The revenue from the tax increase, says Commission Chair Jonathan Barfield, will go to retiring old debt -- in light of the planning required for the public school bonds approved by voters last November.  

Skip Watkins and Woody White cast the dissenting votes.  Jonathan Barfield, Beth Dawson, and Rob Zapple voted in favor of the staff-recommended budget.