Person County manager recommends 2-cent property tax increase

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The Person County Board of Commissioners got its first look Monday at County Manager Heidi York’s proposed $70 million budget, which calls for the first property tax hike in Person County in a dozen years.

Under the county’s manager recommended budget, county residents could see a 2-cent property tax increase.

The increase would cover additional funding for the Person County school system, generating $896,000 of new revenue.

The proposed budget would raise the county tax rate from $0.70 per $100 of assessed property value to $0.72 per $100.

The owner of a $118,000 house would pay $849.60 in county property taxes, a $23.60 increase.

The plan includes $10.4 million in revenue for the school system.

That falls short of PCS’ request for $11.1 million in county funding for the school system.

“I recommended a 9.4 percent increase and again that amount is the same amount as what two cents on your property tax would generate next year,” York told commissioners.

The recommended budget also calls for $1.3 million in spending for Piedmont Community College, falling short of the college’s request for $1.6 million for current expenses.

The main driver behind the budget numbers is York’s effort to address priorities laid out by commissioners earlier in the year in areas such as education, public safety and economic development.

An additional $1 million will be appropriated for education that will help pay the combined current expense for Piedmont Community College,$386,000, and Person County Schools, $896,000. Economic development projects such as executive hangars at the airport and implementation of the county’s fiber project add an additional $2.6 million and in public safety there is an increase of $601,000 combined for personnel and volunteer fire departments.

York says the budget will impact Person County residents in a lot of ways. “These investments will yield high return for improving the quality of life for all residents and fostering a prosperous community,” York said.

While the property tax increase, projected increases in sales tax revenue, interest earnings and Department of Motor Vehicles growth could result in a $3 million increase for the general fund, another tax increase for county residents only, could result in millions of new dollars for volunteer fire departments.

The county has already done the ground work for the fire tax in order to increase funding for VFDs and to alleviate some of the burden off the general fund.

Last year commissioners backed a 1-cent fire tax to fund volunteer fire departments and also agreed to give VFDs a 49 percent raise with a 2-year contract.

In York’s recommended budget, the full funding for VFDs has moved from the general fund to a separate fire tax rate.

The fire tax rate would increase to 2.75 cents per $100 in property valuation, which is a 1.75-cent increase.

The increase would generate overall funding of just over $1 million to VFDs and build into the contract for the upcoming year a 2 percent increase, which generates an additional $20,000 for VFDs.

“Moving this into a single fund not only provides transparency but it also helps reflect the true value of the volunteer fire departments,” York said to the board.

York recommends continuing the merit pay program for the county’s workforce and the cost is slightly lower for next year than the current year at $183,000.

She also recommends a three-year implementation plan for a salary compression study, proposing public safety employees receive $216,000 in the first year.

York projects the county will need to spend $705 per month per employee for insurance costs, which is about $8,800 that the county would spend per employee per year.

That represents a 9.5-percent increase over the county’s current insurance expenses bringing the total for insurance costs to $3.5 million to provide benefits for full-time employees.

Not everything people wanted to see in the budget proposal made it. Requests the county has received but did not included in the budget are fireworks, a donation for the Personality Festival, funding for a beaver management program, water and sewer fund allocations, money for a National Guard museum and a YMCA feasibility study adopted in the strategic plan.

A public hearing on the plan is set for 7 p.m., June 3 at the Person County Office Building Auditorium and thereafter two work sessions will be held at 10 a.m., June 4 and at 6 p.m., June 10.

Commissioners could vote on the annual budget at the board’s June 17 meeting.

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