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Proposed Tax Decrease In Alexander County Budget May Not Occur

Proposed Tax Decrease In Alexander County Budget May Not Occur

The Alexander County Board of Commissioners held a budget work session on Monday, June 13 to discuss the proposed 2022-2023 county budget. The major topics of discussion included increased funding for the county’s volunteer fire departments, a possible one-quarter cent local sales tax, and a decrease in the property tax rate following next year’s revaluation.

County Manager Rick French said the proposed budget totals $53,653,167. Originally, a four-cent property tax decrease was included; however, at the work session, commissioners said they believe it would be prudent to wait on the results of the county’s tax revaluation in 2023 and then determine how much to decrease the property tax rate.

“We wanted to lower property taxes for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, but the uncertainty of the national economy has made us rethink our position and be more financially conservative to ensure that our county is in good shape,” said Chairman Ronnie Reese. “With property revaluation next year, we are confident that our citizens will see a decrease in the property tax rate.”

Mr. French said he has been in discussion with local fire chiefs who have expressed a need for additional funding from the county. In addition to the fire district property taxes already in place, the proposed budget now includes $63,000 from the county’s general fund for each of the county’s eight volunteer fire departments. The County Manager said he hopes to continue to provide additional funding each year based on the departments’ coverage, number of calls, number of firefighters, etc. He said the amount of the funding is somewhat contingent on a proposed one-quarter cent local sales tax.

Mr. French said he has been in contact with the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (NCACC) to discuss the proposed one-quarter cent tax, which, officials hope will be introduced to the General Assembly in September 2022. He said the sales tax request would then go through a legislative process with consideration during the General Assembly’s long session in January 2023. A local referendum would then be necessary to pass the one-quarter cent sales tax.

If passed, a one-quarter cent sales tax would generate approximately $800,000 in Alexander County, which would be available for emergency services. The proposed budget includes no tax increases in fire districts and no fee increases for building inspections, zoning, or fire inspections. The City of Hickory is proposing a three percent increase in water rates, pending approval of the Hickory City Council.

Mr. French said the proposed budget includes a 5 percent cost-of-living adjustment for county employees. He said the county is planning improvements at Bethlehem Park, and Wittenburg Access Area is scheduled for completion in spring 2023. The 2022-2023 budget is scheduled to be adopted at the board’s meeting on Monday, June 20 at 6:00 p.m. at the CVCC Alexander Center for Education (room #103).