LEE COUNTY: Proposal includes property tax decrease

May. 19, 2013 @ 05:56 PM

With no new capital projects, a funding cut to education and a three-cent property tax decrease, the Lee County Board of Commissioners will take its first look at the 2013-2014 proposed county budget Monday.

Lee County Manager John Crumpton will present his projected budget during the commissioners’ 4:30 p.m. meeting at the Lee County Government Center, located at 116 Hillcrest Drive. Following the meeting, a series of budget workshops will be held with each county department for commissioners to ask questions about their respective budget. Per the request from the majority of the commissioners, the proposed property tax rate will drop from 75 cents per $100 valuation to 72 cents per $100 valuation — saving a property owner $45 on a home valued at $150,000 — according to the budget message crafted by Crumpton. 

Overall, the projected budget is $63.5 million, showing an increase of 0.72 percent from last year’s original budget. According to Crumpton, this year’s budget reflects two major changes that directly impacted the county. The first being the 2013 property tax revaluation, which showed the county’s tax base increased by $84.2 million. The second being the commissioners’ decision to change the sales tax distribution method to the ad valorem method from per capita.

“If this change had not been made, the county’s budgeted sales tax revenues for FY 2013-2014 would have shown no growth from the FY 2012-2013 budgeted sales tax,” Crumpton wrote in the budget message. “FY 2012-2013 sales tax receipts are below budget, and the forecast for next year’s sales tax receipts reflects the projected shortfall.”

The recession has forced cuts from the state and federal level, and they are passing those impacts onto the county, he said.

“Many departments requested new personnel to address the growing number of services that are being required by our citizens and state and federal programs,” Crumpton said.  “Addressing ongoing operations, major capital needs and increasing education requests for funding will be a difficult task in the future unless the county’s tax base grows at an annual rate exceeding 2 percent.”

Funding for Lee County Schools and Central Carolina Community College will show a 2.97-percent decrease in funding from last year and LCS requested a little more than $3 million more than what the county is proposing to give the schools. Lee County Schools will no longer receive a special $500,000 appropriation for teaching assistants, graduation ambassadors and tutors, according to the budget.

Crumpton said the county would have to raise the property tax rate by seven cents for the county to meet the full request by the school system.

“The pendulum has swung with regards to education funding at the federal, state and local levels,” he said. “Time will tell if the staff and program reductions implemented in the K-12 System over the last three years and newly enacted cuts in the coming fiscal year will affect the quality of education to our public school system.”

At some point, he continues, the Lee County Board of Education will request funding to address the quality shortfall.

“In the future, that balance of funding with the quality of an education in Lee County will need to be addressed, along with their long-term capital needs,” Crumpton said.  

The budget presentation, budget ordinance and budget message will be available online by Monday at www.leecountync.gov.