For those people who are concerned about increasing property tax rates in the years ahead, there is likely nothing to worry about.
This week, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston pledged that he will not vote for a property tax hike in Guilford County in the next four years.
Alston, who was asked several times if he meant exactly what he was saying, confirmed that he simply will not approve a property tax hike over the coming four years – the time between now and the next countywide revaluation of all property by the Tax Department.
That’s a real reason for property owners to rejoice. It’s true that Alston is only one vote on a nine-member board, but he’s also the de facto leader of the Democratic Party in Guilford County – and the Democratic majority on the Board of Commissioners almost always follows Alston’s lead.
If Alston doesn’t support a tax increase, there’s almost no chance there will be one.
Also, when a Republican majority controlled the Board of Commissioners from 2012 to 2020, the Republicans never raised the tax rate, and, in fact, lowered it slightly over that period. So, if the Republicans win the majority of the board in the coming election, there’s also almost no chance of a property tax increase.
The bottom line: Alston’s pledge this week virtually guarantees that county property owners will not see a tax rate increase in the coming years.
One reason this is possible is that the Board of Commissioners is enacting a large “hidden” property tax increase this year. The 2022 revaluation of all property in the county wlll mean tens of millions more dollars coming from property owners each year – even if the property tax rate is left at the current level for years to come.
When the Republicans were in power during the previous revaluation, they lowered the tax rate to “revenue neutral” status due to the increase in the value of homes businesses and other property in the county. In other words, when property values increased, the Republican board lowered the tax rate to a level that brought in an amount of revenue identical to the amount that would have been brought in without revaluation.
Alston said that the county will have enough money to meet its increased needs without raising the tax rate. He also said that, since the county is planning to move to a four-year cycle for revaluation rather than the current five-year cycle, that change will likely bring in more money at the existing tax rate. So, due to a large increase in property values captured in the new revaluation, Guilford County government will rake in tens of millions more in property taxes even with the tax rate fixed at the current level.
Alston said he doesn’t know what other county commissioners will do in the future, but he will not back a property tax rate increase.
He said that the extra revenue from the 2022 revaluation will meet the needs of the county. He said there are many needs that must be met.
“We need to pay our employees more,” Alston said of the roughly 2,500 people on the county’s payroll. “Social services workers, for instance, due to the caseloads, aren’t being paid enough for the county to retain them.”
Alston also said the county also needs to provide the school system with enough funds in the coming years to pay teachers better and also to pay back the debt on a $1.7 billion school bond referendum he hopes voters will pass in May.
Alston also said it’s important to keep in mind that the other commissioners may think differently about the matter, so, he said, it’s conceivable a majority of the board may approve a tax hike even without his vote at some point down the line.