Harnett Commissioner Sees Higher Home Value As One Key To Meet Growth

Harnett County Commissioner Joe Miller would like to see newly constructed home values set at a mandatory level to help pay for the services they bring with them.

County is limited in what can

One Harnett County commissioner believes one way for the county to match needed services, including schools, to the expected growth is for the value of new housing starts to reach close to half a million dollars.

Vice Chairman Joe Miller said the houses being built today don’t even cover the cost of the education for the children who will be raised in those homes. Based on the tax revenue generated, it leaves the county looking for funding to meet the needs of schools.

Currently it costs around $1,700 per student, most new homes today are generating far less than needed, more around $1,200 per student. That also doesn’t include the other costs associated with being a resident of Harnett County, things like the cost of supplying services such as law enforcement protection. It would also help slow down the ballooning growth, especially in the northwest portion of the county where there are currently 37 new developments proposed.

“The average house in Harnett County right now is $188,000, property tax is $1,300 and it costs $1,700 to educate a child,” Miller said during a break in the commissioners retreat at Shawtown Tuesday. “So, you’ve got a house worth $188,000 with three kids in it, so with that $1,300 tax base, you’ve got a $5,100 tax base that we’re losing.”

Miller said the increase in taxes from an increased value would naturally set in motion the funding to meet the needs that go with every new residential build. A situation further hampered by more people living in the county than have jobs in the county.

“We’re a bedroom county and it’s what’s killing us,” he said. “We’re losing money as we go. If you make it a $450,000 house, not only does it pay for the children, it slows down growth because most folks can’t afford a $450,000 house.”

Miller says those who disagree with his idea are the same ones who are wanting more from the county.

“You’ve got this much money, but you want three times that in services, but the money’s not there,” Miller said. “They fuss that we need more schools. Well, yeah we need more schools, but the money’s not there. We don’t have industry, we don’t have commercial, that’s what’s killing us.”

Miller said the numbers are simply the truth, there’s no way around it.

“The numbers don’t lie,” he said. “You can make black and white and gray areas out of the situation, but there’s not any in numbers, it’s the truth.”

The biggest problem with Miller’s proposal is the North Carolina legislature won’t allow the county to directly dictate the value of the homes developers bring to the county. The legislature won’t allow the county to assess things such as impact fees or require builders to include features to houses which would drive the price up.

“Our legislators won’t let us charge developers impact fees,” he said. “Developers come in here make $2 or $3 million on the developments then they leave and stick the residents of the county with a $100 million school to build. It’s not right as long as you’ve got lobbyists and homeowners associations or the home builders association being one of the largest lobbyists in the state, they dictate what goes on.”

As for what the county could do to work around the situation in Raleigh, Miller says he’s not really sure.

“We can’t make them build a $450,000 house,” he admitted. “Our legislators need to help us, our economic development needs to bring in industry and large commercial growth. We need to keep some open areas, for farming and for green space, I don’t know if there is an answer at the moment.”

While he admits the answer lies somewhere in the middle of government red tape and the race for more profits from developers, he knows something has to be done.

“I don’t know if there is an answer at the moment,” he said. “I wish I did, we wouldn’t be in the shape we’re in, but something has to be done.”

-Dunn Daily Record