07TaxesOkay folks, open your wallets. Local government is about to get a little more expensive this year.

County Manager Amy Canon last week gave her elected board dire news: The County is $27 million in the hole. And, finding money to shave that deficit doesn’t look promising. Here’s why.

First, the property revaluation didn’t produce the money County bureaucrats hoped for. In fact, property values took a nose dive since the last revaluation in 2009. I say most because I’m one of the few whose property actually went up a couple of grand.

Lower property values means less property tax for county coffers. The County will have to up the tax rate by about four and a half cents to break even. They call that revenue neutral. That means the current county tax rate of 74 cents per $100 valuation could jump to 78.4 cents per $100 valuation. It’s been at 74 cents for the past five years.

There’s also talk of another 3.9 cents on top of the 4.4-cent increase to get the County past the break-even point. The extra 3.9 cents would pay for a pay raise and health care insurance increases, repair county-owned buildings and keep jailed inmates healthy.

Let’s do the math. Your property tax on a $100,000 home will jump from $740 to $823, an $83 hike.
If you have anything above a starter home, the chances of having a $100,000 house now-a-days is slim. So, if you have a $200,000 house, your bill comes to $1,646. Then there are the cars, motorcycles, boats and the trailers to haul the toys. Each with its own tax-assessed price tag. 

The Fayetteville City Council at this writing hasn’t reviewed its budget proposal. But remember, with property values down and a lot on their fiscal plate, the City Council also needs money to get out of the hole.  

The County is in a bind. The North Carolina General Assembly created Cumberland County. And it’s that body of lawmakers who through the years compiled a list of what counties have to do to be counties. Among those duties is to pay for programs the state deems necessary. Counties struggling to pay for those programs call them unfunded mandates.

The list includes: sheriff’s departments and jails, medical examiners, courts, building code enforcement, public schools, social services, mental health, public health, board of elections, tax offices, child support and money for keeping FTCC buildings and facilities maintained.

Canon’s proposed options are to cut back on services the County is not required to provide. As usual, closing a popular service like the library is among them. So is not filling unfilled jobs and eliminating real people from the payroll. Also, in this country we treat animals as disposable items, so cutting services at the animal shelter makes sense.

And while Fayetteville — the sixth largest city in the state —  is the shopping mecca of southeast North Carolina, the resulting sales tax yield is meager compared to the other cities.

Finally, the City of Fayetteville wants to renegotiate its agreement with the County on how they share sales tax proceeds. Currently, the city returns a part of the sales tax the County lost when Fayetteville annexed 42,000 people into the city back in 2005.

According to Mayor Nat Robertson, the payback deal last year cost the city about $7 million.  The mayor wants to keep more of it. He wants a reset of the agreed-upon formula.

Folks, the money pie is getting smaller. Our city and county-elected leaders will be competing for more of what they believe is their fair share. They may even want to make the pie bigger by having you pay for it.

More than ever, we need city and county-elected officials get out of their silos. We need them to cooperate for the benefit of all citizens.

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