Proposed Water Tap Fees Up 95%
Sewer Tap Fees Up 36%
Base Water Rates Up 18%
Base Sewer Rates Up 11%
Water Rates 7.2% Higher
Sewer Rates 11% Higher In County Manager’s Proposal
Johnston County Manager Rick Hester unveiled his new $241.5 million spending proposal for the 2019-2020 fiscal year on Thursday. The proposal is up almost six percent from the current $227.9 million 2018-2019 fiscal year budget.
A major sticking point on the proposed budget is the property tax rate. The Johnston County Tax Office recently completed a property revaluation, the first since 2011. The average 2019 property value increased by 24.07 percent. To remain revenue neutral, the County could have lowered the property tax rate to 70 cents but kept it at its current rate of 78 cents per $100 valuation. That is equal to an average increase of up to 11.4 percent in countywide property tax bills.
(Some homeowners in towns like Clayton and Archer Lodge will be impacted even more, where their average property revaluations jumped by 26.99 and 26.67 percent respectively. By township, the Elevation community saw a 28.63% average revaluation increase.)
While the 78 cents property tax rate has not changed in 17 years it will represent a property tax increase in 2019 if the rate remains unchanged by commissioners.
The proposed budget includes 3.9 percent more funding for Johnston County Schools and Johnston Community College.
Johnston County Schools had requested $84,062,810 this year, a 32.25% increase. Hester’s proposal includes $66,042,842 or $18,019,968 less than the school board had requested.
Johnston Community College will receive $5,295,186 from the County for current expenses and capital outlay.
Local matching funds are included to fund 7 new School Resource Officer positions in middle schools that are currently served by a local municipality.
County employees would see a 2.1% salary increase in July with a performance pay adjustment of up to 1.4% in October. Funds are also included for the second phase of the Mercer review, third phase of the restructured longevity plan, and the wage compression program.
A total of 28 new positions are included. Among them are 8 new employees in Emergency Medical Services, 7 in the Sheriff’s Office, 7 in the Department of Social Services. 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.
Water And Sewer Fees
Hester’s budget includes several fee changes for the Johnston County Public Utilities Department.
Residential county water tap fees would increase more than 95% from the current rate of $920 to $1,800. Residential county sewer tap fees would go from $2,780 to $3,800 a 36% increase. These are one-time fees when customers connect onto county water or sewer.
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 who would be impacted by the higher rates, which would 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.
“I am glad that city and county managers have to show what revenue-neutral rates are during a revaluation,” County Manager Hester told JoCoReport. “Transparency is important. I think we all know there are lots of needs to address in the County. I look forward to the Board of Commissioner’s feedback. I greatly respect any and all decisions they make during this budget process.”
Reaction From Commissioners
“It is early in the budget process. I realize the county manager’s proposed budget is not revenue neutral,” Vice Chairman Chad Stewart told JoCoReport. “I can assure you I will have many many questions for the county manager as we move into budget season. After all its not the county’s money it’s the tax payers money.”
Commissioner Patrick Harris said, “This is early in the budget process and there are many items that need to be considered including the current tax rate and the future capital needs. We are just beginning the process to craft a spending plan that will serve the citizens, address the infrastructure and operational needs of county services, schools, etc. I am confident that we can strike a balance that will move Johnston County forward as well as provide mindful and prudent use of the taxpayer’s money.”
Commissioner Tony Braswell who won election in 2018 on a platform to keep property taxes revenue neutral following the 2019 reevaluation said the final decision on the tax rate rests with commissioners and not the county manager. “In regard to the revenue neutral tax rate and the tax rate proposed by the county manager, the final tax rate determination will be made by the Bard of Commissioners. With some of the high revaluation values I personally believe we need to be closer to the revenue neutral rate and not create undue burden on the taxpayers. The county manager and staff did a great job and this is no way being critical of their hard work.”
Commissioners will hold a series of budget workshops before adopting the final budget prior to July 1st.