The budget cycle for the Guilford County commissioners is gearing up again and the big question many county residents have is this: Will they or won’t they?
Raise taxes, that is.
At a Thursday afternoon, Feb. 23, 3:30 p.m. work session in the Carolyn Coleman Conference Room on the first floor of the Old Guilford County Court House in downtown Greensboro, the Board of Commissioners will hold a work session that will include a discussion of the county’s priorities for the fiscal 2023-24 budget that the board is scheduled to adopt in June.
The big question that’s already making the rounds among county staff and commissioners is whether or not there should be a property tax increase when that new budget is adopted.
It’s hard to imagine how the board could argue for a tax increase this year given what’s transpired in the last two years.
In that time, Guilford County has received millions and millions of dollars in federal money that, in many cases, helps offset funding the county would have needed to pay out of its ordinary funds during a usual year.
Also, Guilford County government got well north of $80 million in extra funds last year by keeping the tax rate at the same level after the 2022 revaluation of property across the county. That extra money will continue to recur each year since the price of most property in the county will remain the same until the next countywide revaluation of property.
There’s also the fact that inflation has hit county residents hard and property owners are already paying much more in property taxes than they did in 2021.
Residents won’t like another tax hike right on the tail of that increase.
On the other hand, Guilford County government is spending much, much more money right now than at any point in history. The county approved a $1.7 million school bond that voters voted yes on, and it just created a new entire Public Relations Department, and the county has also been lavish in its treatment of county benefits and pay for employees.
One bit of good news for taxpayers is that the board seems likely to increase the discount rate for early payers from 0.5 percent off the tax bill to 1 percent off the bill.
The bad news is that even a minor tax increase would negate that small break.
Information that county staff sent in an email to the commissioners reads, “Staff received a question from a Commissioner about our tax rate and early property discount.” The unnamed commissioner asked this: “How much revenue would be generated by adjusting the tax rate from 73.06 cents to 74 cents and increasing the early pay discount rate from 0.5 precent to 1 percent?”
County staff’s “safe estimate” answer to that question was that increasing the discount rate would mean a loss of $1.4 million in revenue, while increasing the tax rate to 74 cents per $100 of assessed property value would bring in an extra $6.4 million – meaning that scenario would lead to a $5 million increase in revenue for the county in the coming fiscal year.
The email from staff didn’t identify which commissioner sent the question to staff..
At least one commissioner isn’t going to vote to raise taxes this year.
Commission James Upchurch said, “I’ve never voted for a tax increase and I’m not going to start now – especially when taxes just went up over 30 percent with the revaluation.”