County Commissioners Approve $243 Million Budget

Tax rate decreases but property owners will be paying 9.2% more 
Some fees increase 11 – 95 Percent 
“We’re being frugal with taxpayers money…”  

Johnston County Commissioners held a special called meeting Monday night to adopt the 2019-2020 fiscal year budget.  Numerous changes were approved in the 12 minute public meeting, including more money for Johnston County Schools and a two cents reduction in the property tax rate.

Commissioners unanimously approved the $243 million budget, up from the $241.5 million proposal from County Manager Rick Hester.

Johnston County Commissioners meet Monday, June 17th to adopt the 2019-2020 fiscal year budget. Photo

In a motion from Commissioner Larry Wood of Benson, the board agreed to reduce the Johnston County property tax rate from 78 to 76 cents.  Because of the 2019 property revaluation, keeping the tax rate at 78 cents would have meant an average 11.4 percent increase in tax bills for property owners. The two cents reduction is still equal to a 9.2 percent increase.   For example, an individual with a $100,000 home paid $780 in county taxes last year prior to the reevaluation. Factoring in the reevaluation and new tax rate, the same average homeowner will pay $846.64 this year, a $66.64 increase.

Monday night, Commissioners approved adding $3 million to the budget for Johnston County Schools, above and beyond a 3.9 percent increase previously recommended by the County Manager. That will bring total school funding to $69,042,842 for the 2019-2020 fiscal year, 8.6% more than $63,563,852 in funding in the current budget.

Other highlights include:

    • $133,745 was added to the Johnston Community College capital outlay budget.
    • Add $95,000 for Community & Senior Services
    • Appropriate $5,000 for the Re-Entry Program
    • Appropriate $175,000 to the Johnston Regional Airport for local matches to grant funds
    • Appropriate $76,000 for the Commuter Rail Study as requested by the NC Railroad Company
    • Appropriate $35,000 for the Archer Lodge Veteran’s Memorial
    • Add $33,000 to the Soil & Water Conservation Budget to replace a pickup
    • Appropriate $10,000 for Special Olympics
    • Appropriate $85,000 to the Town of Kenly to assist with demolition expenses of the old Kenly School cafeteria/auditorium building
    • Appropriate $100,000 for the Clayton Harmony Playground
    • Appropriate $25,000 for Partnership for Children of Johnston County
    • Add $10,000 to the base fee for first responder fire departments
    • Appropriate $21,000 for the Smithfield Rescue Mission
    • Add $800,000 to the sales tax revenue projections
    • Reduce the County’s capital outlay budget by $2.3 million

28 new positions are included in the budget, including 7 new school resource officers, 8 new EMS employees, and 7 Department of Social Service workers.  The Register of Deeds Office, Child Support, Planning Department, Animal Services and Veterans Service Office will each receive one new employee. A new Parks, Greenways and Open Space Coordinator position is also included.

County employees will see a 2.1% salary increase in July with a performance pay adjustment of up to 1.4% in October.

Water And Sewer Fees
The adopted budget includes several fee changes for the Johnston County Public Utilities Department.

On July 1st, new residential construction County water tap fees will increase more than 95% from the current rate of $920 to $1,800. However, the $920 fee will remain unchanged for existing residential dwellings with an active well that requests to connection to County water.  Keeping the one-time tap fee unchanged for existing taxpayers and homeowners was included at the urging of Vice Chairman Chad Stewart.

One-time Residential sewer tap fees will go from $2,780 to $3,800, representing a 36% increase.

Base water and sewer rates will also increase.  Water base rates will jump 18% from $16 to $19 per month, while sewer base rates will climb 15% from $23.00 to $26.50 per month for residential customers.

Water rates will go up 7.2% from $3.45 to $3.70 per 1,000 gallons.  Sewer rates will increase by 11% from $5.35 to $5.95 per 1,000 gallons.

The County has about 35,000 residential water customers and about 6,000 residential sewer customers that will be impacted by the higher rates, when they take effect July 1, 2019.

The solid waste decal to dispose of trash at a county green site will stay at $100 per year.   The tipping fees at the Johnston County Landfill will remain unchanged.

Commissioner Tony Braswell campaigned for election in 2018 on keeping the tax rate revenue neutral.  “”I think we’ve all got some battle wounds including the county manager,” Braswell said. “I think we understand that in a growing county that there are needs we must face.”

“This budget represents a spending plan that everyone can move forward with and be happy about,” added Commissioner Patrick Harris. “We’re being frugal with the taxpayers money but we’re also addressing some needs that have needed to be addressed for a long time.  I’m excited about the opportunity to move the county forward in that fashion.”