If anyone believes there’s no difference in spending between having a Guilford County Board of Commissioners led by a Republican majority versus one led by a Democratic majority, then they should read on.

In the last four years, since the Democrats took over control the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, the board has increased the county budget by roughly $200 million, more than four times greater than the previous Republican-led Board of Commissioners did in the eight years controlling the board from 2012 to 2020.

In the eight years of Republican rule under leaders like Commissioners Jeff Phillips, Hank Henning, Alan Branson, Justin Conrad and Alan Perdue, the county budget increased by a total of $48 million, while, in half that time – four years – the Democrats on the board have quadrupled that amount of an increase in spending.

Democrats held control of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners for the first part of the century, when tax increases were seen in many years. Then, in December of 2012, Republicans won a majority of the board’s nine seats and they got the chance to finally call the shots.

The last Guilford County budget previously determined by the Democratic-majority  Board of Commissioners was the 2012-2013 fiscal budget, which was adopted in June of 2012, before Republicans gained control of the board in the November 2012 election.  The adopted budget that year by the Democrats totaled $587,512,243.

After the exit of some Democratic commissioners and the entrance of some newly elected Republicans, the Republicans took over the board with a majority, and that Republican board adopted its first budget. That adopted budget totaled $577,005,769.

That number is interesting because it was about $10 million less than the budget adopted by the just-departed Democratic-majority board.

That serves as a reminder that, while these days, the Guilford County budget only goes up and up and up, in a time long ago, budgets could actually be brought down by cuts and efficiencies.

The 2014-2015 budget – the second-year budget of the Republican-led board –  came in at $588,294,608.  That was an increase over the previous year, but one that took the budget just up to the level of the last budget adopted by the Democratic-majority board two years earlier.

 In 2015-2016, the following year, the adopted budget remained virtually the same: $588,356,630.

The next year, the 2016-2017 budget came in just a hair over the $600 million mark.

Cut to the fiscal 2020-2021 Guilford County budget, the last one the Republican majority controlled.  That adopted budget totaled $634,635,294.  So, after eight years of a board led by Republican county commissioners, the county budget was about $48 million higher than when they took over control from the Democrats eight years earlier. That’s an average increase of $6 million a year.

During that eight-year period from 2012 to 2020, the Republicans never raised taxes.  In fact, they lowered taxes and left the county with a tax rate that was less than when they took control in 2012.

Also, when the county’s Tax Department revalued all the property in the county, the Republican commissioners lowered the tax rate again to keep the county “revenue neutral” – that is, though housing prices went up, property tax bills remained the same.

Contrast that with what happened in 2022.  During that year – the most recent countywide property revaluation – the Democrat-led board did not adjust the tax rate to compensate for the higher property values.  The board kept the rate the same – which equaled a 14-cent tax increase per $100 dollars of assessed property value.  That’s the largest tax increase this century by far and perhaps the greatest tax increase ever seen in the history of Guilford County.

After the Republican commissioners adopted a budget of $634 million in the 2020-2021 budget, the Democrats took over.

The first budget they controlled was the 2021-2022 budget, which totaled $675,520,000. That’s $41 million higher than the budget the Republicans left them with.  So, in their first year in power, the Democrats raised the budget by nearly as much as the Republicans had in the previous eight years.

That budget also came in with a $35 million deficiency that took the county’s savings account – the fund balance – down from $128 million to $93 million.

In 2022-2023, the county budget increased from $675 million and change to an astounding $783,812,000. That $109 million increase in one year was a roughly $14 million greater increase than the Republican board implemented over their entire eight-year reign.

A lot of that was due to the fact that the Democratic board in 2022 had a tremendous $92 million windfall by revaluing county property at a time when housing values were through the roof – and the board didn’t lower the tax rate to compensate for the property value increases as the Republican board before them had.

The next year, the adopted 2023-2024 county budget grew again – it came in at $821,155,000.

Last month, Guilford County Manager Mike Halford brought his proposed fiscal 2024-2025 budget to the board, one that totaled $ 831 million. That’s roughly $197 million more than the budget level the Republican-majority board left them with four years earlier.

The final budget isn’t yet decided; however, by the time the Board of Commissioners puts in more spending in the next couple weeks, which it will, the new budget total will likely put the final 2024-2025 budget number at a level at least $200 million greater than the last budget adopted by Republicans four years earlier.

Which is somewhat staggering when you think about it, because, again, in four years, the Democratic-led board has more than quadrupled the increased amount in budgets than the Republican board implemented in eight years.