While no official vote was taken, there appeared to be a 3-2 majority of Lincoln County Commissioners in favor of increasing the County's tax rate from .599 to .619 at the Commissioners' budget workshop last Friday (April 9th). Three East Lincoln residents posted a letter to Commissioners which they also shared with us opposing any increase.
Lincoln County Commissioners,
We are principals of a growing group of Lincoln County citizens requesting that the County hold to a zero tax increase.
The County budget has increased 17% over the previous 4 year period and should the most recent budget proposal be adopted, the additional 7% would result in a 24% increase, the largest 5 year increase in recent memory.
We believe that long term capital projects not be financed with current revenue. County taxpayers sustained an average 10% net property tax increase after the most recent assessment increase in spite of the concurrent tax rate decrease. The property tax increase does not include increased water/sewer rates, amongst the highest in the State, nor Fire District rate increases. Our reserves are several million dollars greater than needed, more than triple the required reserve and excessively higher than the 20% identified by this commission.
In light of the recent Budget Workshop discussions and the probable increase in taxes, this group recommends that the following Capital Projects be included in the proposed Bond Referendum:
- Recreation/Veterans Renovation-complete design phase only - Lincolnton
- Westwinds Park - Vale
Additionally, abandon a projected $2 to $10 million renovation of the existing Courthouse. The County has already committed to spending $32 million on the new Courthouse, which is under construction. We recommend selling or giving the existing Courthouse to the city of Lincolnton or a non-profit to reduce capital outlay for a building that the County doesn't need and that will continue to be a financial burden, regardless of its uncertain future use. This donation could be conditional upon the receiving entity preserving the historic nature of the building.
The above actions would allow all voters and taxpayers to determine the priority of elective capital projects for the whole of the County, and also mitigate the need for a tax increase extremely close to another property revaluation just 1 ½ years away.
Lincoln Herald note: The referenced 'bond referendum' has never yet been proposed. Commissioner Milton Sigmon brought up the idea of a park and sports complex in eastern Lincoln County as a possible future project. Commissioner Bud Cesena then suggested that undertaking that project would likely require a bond vote.
The first phase (design) for renovation of the building on N. Academy St. was already a part of this year's County budget. The County has already advertised for bids on the Westwind Park project adjacent to the West Lincoln Branch Library.]