Person County commissioners approved a budget Monday that calls for the first increase in the property tax rate in 12 years.
But not before they continued their debate and gathered more comments from the public.
In a 3-2 vote, commissioners voted to approve a proposal from Commissioner Ray Jeffers that called for a three-cent property tax hike, a penny more than the budget county manager Heidi York recommended.
Jeffers’ proposal called for funding the budget proposed by county manager Heidi York with added funding for a handful of projects, including an additional $250,000 to the Economic Development Commission’s operating budget, $25,000 for a YMCA study and the implementation of a salary study over a two-year period at a cost of $363,471.50.
The budget also cuts funding for the Woodsdale Volunteer Fire Department by $30,000 and lowers fees from $300 to $100 to help county farmers pay for agricultural well permits.
The county will conduct a study of its health department personnel needs, but the budget trims a public health nursing positions and freezes the department’s vacant positions.
Hoping to sway the outcome of Monday’s vote at the last minute, the public packed the commissioners’ meeting room to voice their concerns before the board voted.
During public comment, residents addressed issues that have been central to this year’s budget debate, including property tax increases, a YMCA study and economic development funding.
“It is easy to raise taxes. I don’t find it innovative. I find it lazy. I know it is a necessary evil but we have been doing well so far,” said Rougemont resident Chris Weaver.
A resident in favor of raising taxes believed it will be a good investment in the health and welfare of the community.
“Look at where the good jobs and good schools are in our state. All of those places have higher taxes because they give better services – services that help everybody,” said Person County resident James Haward.
Others recommended solutions to the board to address revenues and taxation levels in the county.
“Why can’t you use sales tax to help offset some of these (taxes) on property owners,” Person County resident Fred Fox asked.
A Timberlake resident against increasing property taxes questioned why the board didn’t considered commissioner Kyle Puryear’s budget proposal and spoke about concerns with funding a YMCA study.
“I think It was a shame this board did not consider Kyle Puryear’s budget proposal and I think approving a YMCA study that will cost these taxpayers $25,000 is a waste of money,” Derrick Sims said. Sims was an unsuccessful candidate in the race for a seat on the county board of commissioners last year.
Residents advocating for the YMCA study, on the other hand, urged the vote for it.
“They need a YMCA. They need a place to go, a shelter, a safe haven, a place they can go after school, before school, during the summer... I hope you vote for this YMCA because it is needed in our county,” said April Short.
In addition to the increased property tax, the newly adopted budget also raises the fire tax paid by property owners living outside the Roxboro city limits from one cent to 2.75 cents.
Jeffers was joined by Commissioner Jimmy Clayton and board chairman David Newell in voting for the budget. Puryear and Commissioner Gordon Powell voted against it.
The new budget takes effect July 1.