City Councilmembers say this year is the first time property taxes have been raised in over ten years, but that doesn’t mean that it’s true.
Even the official City of Greensboro press release on the 2019-2020 budget which includes a 3 cent property tax increase states, “The City’s last property tax increase was 11 years ago, the Fiscal 2007-08 budget.”
It doesn’t matter how many times they repeat it, the truth is that Greensboro had a property tax increase in the 2017-2018 budget. What the city didn’t do was increase the property tax rate. That might seem like a quibble, but that particular quibble has taken more than $11 million out of the pockets of property owners and put it in the city’s coffers.
In Guilford County 2017 was a property reevaluation year, state law requires cities and counties to publish what the revenue neutral property tax rate is in reevaluation years, so that cities like Greensboro don’t sneak in a stealth tax increase. Revenue neutral is the property tax rate that would keep the city’s tax revenue at the same level as if property had not increased in value.
In Greensboro the revenue neutral tax rate was 61.14, so for Greensboro to not have a property tax increase in 2017 the property tax rate needed to be lowered 2.11 cents. But the City Council didn’t lower the tax rate. It kept the tax rate at 63.25 and loudly proclaimed the tax rate was not being raised.
The result is that by not lowering the rate to the revenue neutral rate the property tax payers of Greensboro paid an additional $5.7 million in taxes not just in 2017-2018 but also in 2018-2019.
When property owners have to pay more taxes that is a property tax increase whether it is done by raising the rates as was done this year, or by increasing the value of the property as was done in 2017.
Greensboro with the new 3 cent tax rate increase to 66.25 cents continues to hold its position as having the highest tax rate in the state for comparable cities.
But this year the City Council did something that you would not expect this City Council to do, along with the tax increase it implemented a recycling availability fee of $2.50 a month for every household. Fees like that are considered regressive because with a property tax, the people who own more expensive property pay more tax. With the $2.50 a month recycling fee whether a person lives in a $4 million house or a $40,000 house they pay the same $2.50 a month.
It’s worth noting that the $2.50 cent fee will raise almost exactly the same amount of revenue for the city as an additional 1 cent on the tax rate.