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New Hanover County set to effectively raise taxes, in large part for teacher pay

The New Hanover County budget cover page, featuring a colorful squirrel.

New Hanover County’s budget this year includes a bit of a tax increase, and a big investment in the school system.

While the county is framing this year’s budget as a tax rate decrease, tax bills in the county are likely to go up overall. That’s because of a recent revaluation of property values, county manager Chris Coudriet said. Properties haven’t been reevaluated since 2017.

“The property values have increased by 33%,” Coudriet said. “The taxable base has grown by a little more than 33% over that four years, but that is reflective of market conditions.”

The county is technically decreasing the tax rate for property owners, but with the increase in property values, the majority of homeowners will be paying more. The new tax rate will be 47.5 cents per $100 of assessed value. Were the county to keep its tax revenue the same as last year, it would be 42.5 cents.

With the increase in revenue, total spending will go up 15.5% compared to last year, according to the county.

Because property values went up considerably, both city and county had to reduce the tax rate to keep the budget more balanced. But the county cut the rate a bit less than the city did.

With the proposed budgets for each entity, the median home in Wilmington would see an added $208 to annual property taxes. The county accounts for more than 80% of that increase.

About 40% of the additional county spending will go to the school district, specifically to increase teacher pay. That’s largely due to the efforts of County chair Julia Olson-Boseman, who thanked the commission for backing her.

“It’s a very happy day for me, because I’ve been fighting for teacher pay for I don’t even know how long,” Olson-Boseman said.

Commissioner Deb Hays also thanked staff and the commission for their efforts. “To me what this budget represents is investment back into the community and to the citizens so that we can truly be the best that we can be.”

The proposed county budget will include $3,434 per student, with a lot of that money going to teacher salaries, Coudriet said.

“This would establish, on average, a $9,000 supplement for our K-12 teachers in the New Hanover County school system, which would establish us as the best funded, or the highest paid teachers in North Carolina.”

That $9,000 figure more than doubles the previous investment from the county into teacher supplements. The new budget will put New Hanover Public Schools in the top 5 for student investment in the state.

The county will also invest $1.1 million into designing and building the North/South College Road trails, and $7.4 million into an emergency logistics center. The county will also hire for 38 new positions, with the lion’s share in public safety.

Kelly Kenoyer is an Oregonian transplant on the East Coast. She attended University of Oregon’s School of Journalism as an undergraduate, and later received a Master’s in Journalism from University of Missouri- Columbia. Contact her on Twitter @Kelly_Kenoyer or by email: KKenoyer@whqr.org.