Commissioners pass budget, tax increase for Lenoir County

Commissioners pass budget, tax increase for Lenoir County

The Lenoir County Board of Commissioners consider the proposed budget L-R: County Attorney Robert Griffin, Eric Rouse, Preston Harris, Craig Hill, Linda Rouse Sutton, Roland Best, Reuben Davis, J. Mac Daughety, County Manager Michael James. Photo by Catherine Hardee / Neuse News

The Lenoir County Board of Commissioners met Monday afternoon to consider the proposed budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

That proposed budget included a cent and a half property tax increase that would take county taxes from $.83 per $100 of value to $.845 per $100.

Prior to the vote on the budget, Commissioner J. Mac Daughety made a motion to amend the budget by using revenue from the increased property taxes to provide raises for employees rather than repairs to the Lenoir County Courthouse and a compensation study.

Commissioner Craig Hill disagreed, stating that the compensation study would give the county a clearer picture of whether an across the board raise was needed, or whether some departments were further behind in wages than others.

Hill also said improvements to the courthouse could not be put off for another year. The timing of the improvements ensures that the courthouse will not be left behind as the Queen Street upgrades are completed, Hill said.

Board of Commissioners Chairman Linda Rouse Sutton said she hoped to begin to address employee wages immediately after receiving the results of the planned compensation study, during this budget year, but that courthouse repairs could not wait.

“The courthouse looks horrible, and it’s leaking. If we don’t get these windows sealed, it’s going to continue to make more damage. If we put it off until next year, the cost is still going to be there,” Sutton said.

Following discussion, the commissioners voted 5-2 against Daughety’s motion to amend the budget, and proceeded to a vote on the budget as it had been proposed.

The vote on the budget was also 5-2, but this time it was in favor, with Daughety and Commissioner Eric Rouse voting against the budget.

Rouse said he voted against it because of his promise never to vote for a tax increase.

“I think government should expand and contract with its tax base, not raise the tax rate,” Rouse said.

Daughety said that he continues to oppose tax increases, but that if one was required, the best use of the revenue would be to put it toward increased wages for county employees.

“You reward the employees, and at the same time, you put wealth back into the county,” Daughety said. “I was disappointed that we are not doing that.”

Sutton said that she was pleased to have a budget passed, but that her feelings were mixed.

“You’re never pleased when you have to raise taxes, but you do what you have to do,” Sutton said. “You have to look at it from a long range perspective. We can’t keep letting things go, can’t keep pulling out of the fund balance.”

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