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Wake commissioners get earful from residents irate over proposed 10 percent tax increase

May 20, 2019

Some Wake County homeowners are less than thrilled with the prospect of paying almost 10 percent more on their property tax bill next year.

The Board of Commissioners held two public hearings Monday on the proposed $1.47 billion 2019-20 county budget, and they got an earful from people who say taxes are going up too much.

“You’re raising, raising, raising, and it’s hurting people badly,” Debbie Griffith-Overby said.

Some people lamented that they had moved to North Carolina to escape high property taxes in other states, while others said people on fixed incomes would be hurt the most by the proposed increase.

“These increases are affecting the most vulnerable residents and taxpayers of Wake County,” Gil Pagan said.

Even before the public hearings, the Wake County Republican Party held a rally outside the commissioners’ offices in downtown Raleigh to protest higher taxes.

“It’s time to have accountability, and we’re telling you: Stop raising our taxes,” Michele Morrow said. “Use the money that you’ve already taken out of our bank accounts to do things across the board for every citizen.”

Wake County Manager David Ellis recommended a 6.36-cent increase to the property tax rate in his proposed budget. The increase would mean the owner of a $250,000 home would pay an extra $159 a year in county property taxes.

The budget, which commissioners plan to vote on June 3, includes an extra $36.5 million for the Wake County Public School System, more ambulances and paramedics, expanded library hours and upgrades on county computer networks.

Ellis said Wake County is the third-fastest-growing county nationwide, and the steady influx of new residents is straining existing resources, so the county needs to put money in to expand them to keep up with demand.

“We’ve had more calls to EMS that we’ve ever had in our county’s history,” Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Jessica Holmes told budget critics. “We have a greater need for pubic safety expenses. We’re expanding and building new libraries. We’re making sure that we meet those very basic needs.”

County officials also noted that the majority of the proposed tax increase – 3.8 of the 6.36 cents – will go toward projects voters approved in November in three bond referendums:

“We passed bonds that not everyone agreed with, but you don’t even have the money to pay for those bonds,” Morrow said. “Instead of only 5 percent to pay for the bonds, you want to hike it 10 percent, which is double what you need.”

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