06TaxCumberland County Commissioners and Fayetteville City Council have adopted their respective operating budget ordinances for the new
fiscal year. 

The FY2018 county budget includes a general fund of $323,622,861, which is a $3.7 million reduction over the current fiscal year. In a split vote, Commissioners Glenn Adams, Larry Lancaster, Jeannette Council and Charles Evans voted for the budget. Commissioners Marshall Faircloth, Jimmy Keefe and Michael Boose voted against it. The plan includes a property tax rate increase of 5.9 cents, which is 1.7 cents above the revenue neutral rate of 78.2 cents. Coupled with that is another 15 cents for fire protection and recreation in unincorporated areas of the county. There will also be an eight-dollar countywide increase in the annual solid waste fee, from $48 to $56. A majority of Cumberland County residential property lost value this year during a revaluation. The revenue-neutral tax rate is supposed to produce funds equal to the amount collected in the previous fiscal year, plus natural growth. 

A 2 percent pay raise for county employees will go into effect Jan. 1. Millions of dollars in cuts required the elimination of 41 full-time and 49 part-time government positions. Thirty-seven of those positions are vacant. Cumberland County Schools will receive $80,362,412 in FY18. Funding in the new year for Fayetteville Technical Community College is $12,101,992. 

Both budgets rely principally on state and federal funds. Some of the so-called outside private agencies had their funding reduced by 15 percent. Others — such as the Boys and Girls Club, Child Advocacy Center, Cumberland County Coordinating Council on Older Adults, Cumberland Veterans Council, Southeast North Carolina Radio Reading, Vision Resource Center and the 2-1-1 information referral system sponsored by United Way — were renewed at current levels. 

Fayetteville Holds the Line on Property Taxes

Meanwhile, City Council avoided raising the municipal property tax rate of 49.95 cents per hundred dollars of valuation by making significant cuts in operations. The general fund of nearly $231 million has previously included an $8 million subsidy to augment the city’s sanitation service. It was cut in half for the coming fiscal year, but the annual solid waste fee will go up from 44 cents to $1.08. The stormwater fee will be increased six dollars annually to $51. The fees are tacked on to annual tax bills. 

Commercial businesses are net gainers at the expense of homeowners. They all pay the same tax rate. But, businesses don’t use city sanitation service and will not be assessed the much higher $1.08 solid waste fee. They hire private garbage haulers. 

City Council had been divided 5-5 until last week when Mayor Pro Tem Mitch Colvin proposed holding the line on taxes while increasing enterprise fund fees. His motion passed 9–1. Mayor Nat Robertson dissented. He’s seeking re-election in the fall. Public Safety step pay plans for police, fire and 911 employees were approved. All other city employees will get a 2 percent pay raise. 

The only new initiative in the coming year is Sunday bus service. Ten of the most popular bus routes will run from 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m. on Sundays. Full service won’t get underway until well into the new fiscal year. Officials say it will take four-and-a-half months of preparation. 

“Additional operators, supervisor time and maintenance staff” would be required, said Assistant Transit Director Kelly Blazey. “We will need time to get through the hiring process, provide training, update our printed materials, hold any necessary public meetings regarding the changes, advertise the changes, etc.,” she added. Fayetteville is the last major city in North Carolina to provide bus service on the Sabbath. 

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