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SMITHFIELD—The Johnston County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a $243 million 2019-20 budget June 17. The spending plan includes a 2-cent reduction in the property tax rate and additional funds for Johnston County Public Schools and Johnston Community College.
The new budget is an increase over the $227.9 million 2018-19 budget by $15.1 million.
While the county reduced its property tax rate from 78 cents to 76 cents per $100 because of the controversial 2019 property tax revaluation, many property owners were upset because their property values increased.
“The board reduced the property tax rate from 78 to 76 cents. Even though the revenue-neutral tax rate is estimated at 70.5 cents, that doesn’t mean that every taxpayer in the county will be paying more in taxes — or that those paying more will be paying the same percentage more,” said Johnston County Manager Rick Hester. “With revaluation, some parts of the county had higher percentage increases in property value growth than others. By state law, the values times the tax rate determines the individual tax bill.”
Hester said the 2-cent cut will reduce property tax revenues by $3.4 million annually.
“As far as reducing the tax rate, I think it’s important to look at that possibility every year to see if there’s a way to let taxpayers keep more of their money and still meet our obligation to provide needed services,” said county Board of Commissioners Chairman Ted Godwin. “In this case, the increased base values allowed us to appropriate the necessary funds with a lower tax rate.”
Godwin said there’s always pressure for capital needs that some feel warrant more tax dollars.
“ I think the board has tried to strike a balance between those needs and what’s best for our citizens,” said Godwin. “With a new tax base, we will continue to look at the rate next year and future years to determine the best rate necessary.”
Hester originally budgeted $66 million for Johnston County Public Schools. Commissioners added another $3 million last week. Johnston Community College was scheduled to receive $5.2 million. Commissioners gave the college $133,745 more.
“We’re extremely appreciative to our county commissioners,” said college President David N. Johnson. “They’ve always taken very good care of JCC. This year, the college had some extra needs and again the county has come through. We will use these additional capital funds toward deferred maintenance and renovations on campus.”
The county also added $800,000 to its sales tax revenue projections.
“We added to sales tax because our original projections were a little conservative,” said Hester.
The 2019-20 budget also:
• Reduces the county’s capital outlay budget by $2.3 million
• Adds $95,000 for community and senior services
• Appropriates $5,000 to the re-entry program
• Allocates $175,000 to the Johnston Regional Airport for local matches to grant funds
• Designates $76,000 for a commuter rail study requested by the North Carolina Railroad Co.
• Contributes $35,000 for the Archer Lodge veterans memorial
• Adds up to $33,000 to the Johnston County Soil & Water Conservation District budget to purchase a new truck
• Appropriates $10,000 for Special Olympics
• Earmarks $85,000 for the town of Kenly’s demolition-related expenses for the old Kenly School cafeteria and auditorium building
• Provides $100,000 for the Clayton Harmony Playground
• Allocates $25,000 for the Partnership for Children
• Adds $10,000 to the base fee for first responder fire departments
• Designates $21,000 for the Smithfield Rescue Mission
• Sets the system development fee at $920 per residential dwelling unit for an existing home with an active well that requests county water service
“The board did a great job and spent lots of time on this budget,” said Hester. “It wasn’t an easy one due to the balancing act of setting a tax rate in a revaluation year while also planning for the many capital needs ahead. In my opinion, they balanced everything in a fair way for all.”