Wake budget would raise property taxes

Wake County Commissioners (Wake County)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Wake County Manager Jim Hartmann on Monday presented a recommendation for a $1.2 billion the Wake County Board of Commissioners during its regular meeting.

A key component of the recommended budget is a 1.35-cent property tax increase above the revenue neutral rate of 58.7 cents, which would generate nearly $18.8 million in new revenue.

At the new rate of 60.05 cents on the average home value of $268,600, the additional tax over the revenue neutral rate would be $36 annually, the county said in a news release.

His proposal – a $56.8 million increase over the county’s FY2016 budget – will help address the increasing demands placed on county services as the population continues to grow on average by 64 people each day.

“Wake County is the second-fastest growing county of more than 1 million people in the nation,” said Hartmann. “We must ensure that we’re resourced appropriately to serve our rapidly growing community, and this recommended budget provides a rational and responsible way to do that.”

Hartmann said the tax increases would help the Wake County Public School System.

“Normal revenue growth could accomplish the majority of our initiatives, but the tax increase was needed to provide a higher level of funding for the Wake County Public School System than just enrollment growth and opening new schools – approximately four percent beyond base levels.”

The next step in this process is for the commissioners to hold public hearings on June 6 at 2 p.m. in the boardroom of the Wake County Justice Center and at 7 p.m. at the Wake County Commons. The board will also hold a work session dedicated to the budget on June 13 at 2 p.m.

The budget includes:

  • $2 million for the Board of Elections to hold the presidential election in November;
  • $566,000 to staff and operate the new Middle Creek Library, which is under construction now and scheduled to open in January 2017; and
  • An additional $137,000 for compliance with state-mandated programs such as NCFAST.
  • Adding new 13 positions to our Child Welfare Division at a net cost of $662,000 to enhance the safety of the growing number of youth currently in our care and those the county is monitoring;
  • Investing $757,000 to improve our level of service to the adults under our guardianship. By increasing funding for contracted services and adding five new positions, the county can reduce the average case load and enable staff to spend more time with each client; and
  • Making significant investments at the Wake County Detention Center to ensure the continued health and safety of the inmates, as well as the detention officers. The budget proposes providing $500,000 to enhance the continuum of care for inmates with mental health or substance abuse issues; $600,000 to hire 12 new medical detention officers to supervise the jail’s medical and detox units; and $945,000 to add 22 new detention officers to provide more relief staffing, which will reduce the use of overtime to fill the gaps when officers are off work or a position is vacant.
  • Investing $154,000 in this budget to convert an Eastern Wake EMS shift from 24-hours to 12-hours. This change will better align our resources to meet the growing demand for assistance; and
  • Providing $387,000 to fund six new positions to ensure our Advanced Practice Paramedic program continues to successfully support the increasing need for its service.
  • Because the county is facing a serious mental health and substance abuse problem, it recommends increasing its current commitment of more than $25 million for crisis services, inpatient care, adult treatment and other support programs by $1.1 million. This includes an additional $600,000 to enhance treatment opportunities for people who need access to mental health care without an appointment and after standard business hours.
  • Adding 10 new nurses to the Wake County Public School System to improve the nurse-to-student ratio;
  • Investing $568,000 to hire five new health and safety inspectors and fund one-time costs for vehicles and equipment. With their additional oversight, the county can better monitor water quality and the growing number of restaurants, hotels and pools;
  • Providing better access to food for our residents by contributing $500,000 to the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina through the county’s capital fund, increasing funding for Universal School Breakfast from $90,000 to $130,000, and providing $20,000 to Wake Interfaith Food Shuttle to create food pantries in five local schools to help feed the hungry; and
  • Creating a new position to manage two pilot projects – one in southeast Raleigh and the other in eastern Wake County – that will support vulnerable communities.
  • Replacing the county’s current email system with a new email platform and updating how the county manages its records digitally; and
  • Modernizing our IT structure to place a greater emphasis on integrated technology and leveraging of innovation throughout the organization.
  • By providing an additional $162,900 to SmartStart, the county can enable the nonprofit group to add another Pre-K classroom, which will help prepare disadvantaged children in Wake for success in kindergarten.
  • Contributing an additional $66,000 to the United Arts Council will allow this organization to pay for transporting 4th grade students to local museums or cultural venues, so they can experience arts and culture firsthand – some for the first time.
  • Facility operating costs and start-up costs for new facilities;
  • Hiring additional technology staff; and
  • Efforts to develop a long-range technology master plan to be paid for from the capital fund.

On funding for the public shools, in fiscal year 2016, the board gave the Wake County Public School System the largest single funding increase in history – $44.6 million – for operating expenses, which is recurring. That record investment elevated per-pupil funding by almost $200 to $2,453 per student, based on Fall 2016 enrollment.

As the county considered the $35.7 million request from the school board for FY2017, its approach focused on per-pupil spending and the statutory requirement for funding the facility costs of new schools scheduled to open. Utilizing this approach, the county arrived at a per-pupil amount of $2,574 – a $121 increase over the FY2016 per-pupil amount.

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