Jones County cuts property taxes for second straight year in 2019-20 budget
TRENTON — For the second consecutive budget, Jones County is lowering property taxes.
The 2019-20 plan, which goes into effect July 1, has the tax rate dropped to .79, two cents lower than last year’s and five cents under the 2017-18 plan. Jones County manager Franky Howard said one of the biggest reasons behind it was to help residents still suffering through the devastation of Hurricane Florence.
“We had an estimate of about a $22 million dollar loss in property value,” Howard said. “There are still a lot of flooded homes, which led to a reduction of tax value. Our priority was trying to reduce the burden on the taxpayers, so we looked to make cuts wherever we could to help them.”
As a result, most departments experienced cuts in order to balance the budget. Jones County’s budget was cut from $14,478,944 last year to $14,234,408 in the upcoming fiscal one, and while there were numerous decreases in funding across the board, a pair of departments received significant increases. The Board of Election’s budget went from $137,263 to $196,965 to prepare for special elections in the upcoming year and the Emergency Medical Services budget was increased from $891,631 to $987,279 in order to service residents better locally.
“Now, we have two paramedic shifts in Jones County, one from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and another one that’s 24 hours,” Howard said. “In the past, we would have to outsource to other agencies, and we’ve almost eliminated the need. We eased into it last year to prepare, and this was a long process overall, but we were able to stick to our goals.”
The budget, which was agreed on June 10, passed with a 5-2 vote. Commissioner Charlie Dunn Jr. was in the majority and said it was best for the county.
“It lowers the taxes for the residents, and to me that’s a good thing, especially after the storm,” Dunn said. “If we can operate efficiently without it — and it could be tough — but this was a time to cut it because increasing property taxes certainly wouldn’t help the community. We asked for a 10 percent cut across the board and while we didn’t get it, everyone sacrificed to make it happen.”
Chairman Mike Haddock dissented with the budget — Sondra Riggs also had a negative vote — but Haddock said his vote wasn’t because of property taxes.
“I wasn’t in favor of some of the cuts to the departments and I couldn’t in good conscience vote for the budget,” Haddock said. “I was in favor of reducing taxes — with what the citizens have been through, any relief we could give them would be wonderful — but I felt like there could’ve been another way to balance things.”