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home : news : news July 23, 2019

6/2/2019 10:29:00 PM
Area Counties & Cities Holding Budget Public Hearings

Wayne Howard
Staff Writer

If you want to comment on the proposed budgets for area counties, this Monday and Tuesday are the days to do it in Lincoln and Cleveland counties, next Tuesday (June 11th) in Gaston County; and if you missed it, it's already been held in Catawba County.

The Catawba County Board of Commissioners held a public hearing on their proposed budget Thursday (May 30th). As it stands now, the budget is $252 million and keeps the current tax rate of 57.5¢ per $100 valuation. As with the Lincoln County proposal to keep the current rate, that amounts to a tax increase because the 2019 revaluation increased property values on average 7.4% in Catawba County.

Some, including the Catawba County Tea Party, have been vocal in asking that the rate be lowered to 55.7¢ which would be essentially a flat rate--raising the same amount of money for the county as it had for fiscal 2019.

The biggest complaint heard at Thursday's public hearing was about something that is not in the proposed budget.

For years, the amount of money the County has provided for the Catawba County Council on Aging, a nonprofit that provides programs for seniors, has been going down--from nearly $53,000 in the 2014 fiscal year to $30,000 in fiscal 2019. This year, the proposed budget totally eliminates any money for the Council.

Both Lincoln and Cleveland counties will hold their public hearings on the proposed fiscal 2020 budget Monday evening.

Cleveland is the only area county in which the proposed budget does not include a call for additional property taxes. Unlike Lincoln, Catawba and Gaston, Cleveland County did not have a revaluation this year (theirs is scheduled for next year) and the proposed budget calls for keeping the current tax rate of 72¢. The public hearing on the budget will be held at 6 PM Tuesday in the Commissioners Meeting Room on the 2nd floor of the Cleveland County Main Administrative Building, 311 East Marion Street in Shelby.

Lincoln County Commissioners appear likely to approve leaving the tax rate at 61.1¢ which amounts to a tax increase averaging 15% because of revaluation. Two of the fire departments have also asked for an increase in their fire district tax: East Lincoln will increase from 8.9¢ to 9.8¢; the rate for Howard's Creek will increase from 12.333¢ to 13.55¢. The rates for all other departments will remain the same. County water & sewer customers will also be paying more: water rates will increase 5% and sewer rates 15% for the coming year.

The reason for keeping the current rate and raising taxes is the plan to add a new Capital Reserve Fund which will be used to finance future capital outlay projects, possibly including a new courthouse, expansion of the jail, etc.

To see the budget presentation that was given to County Commissioners at their mid-May meeting, CLICK HERE.

Gaston County Commissioners will hold their public hearing on the proposed budget next Tuesday evening (June 11th) at 6 PM at the Gaston County Courthouse, 325 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Way in Gastonia. A copy of the proposed budget is available for inspection in the Office of the Clerk to the Board, 128 W. Main Avenue, Gastonia, at public libraries and on the Gaston County website homepage or at the following link: FY20 Recommended Budget.

After a special called meeting on May 22nd, it appeared that a majority of the commissioners were in favor of setting the tax rate at 84¢--down from its current 87¢. That still amounts to a significant increase in property taxes since the 2019 revaluation increase Gaston County property values by an average of over 20%. Commissioner Ronnie Worley told us that evening that he will still push for a further reduction in the tax rate. "I'm not prepared to raise taxes on the citizens of Gaston County by $21 million," he said.

Towns and cities are also holding budget public hearings. The city of Lincolnton will hold its public hearing Thursday evening (June 6th) at 7 PM at City Hall on W. Sycamore St. The City plans to hold its tax rate at 56¢ per hundred dollars valuation. City Manager Steve Zickefoose told us that while that will mean a slight increase in taxes for city property owners, the City has actually lost money (about 7% each) on the last two revaluations before this one.

The average 11% increase will bring the city an additional half million dollars--and Zickefoose said one of the big things it will do is keep the City from having to dip into its Fund Balance--and it has each year since he became City Manager--to fund operations and projects.

Stanley will hold a public hearing on its budget Monday evening at 6:00 at Stanley Middle School, 317 Hovis Rd.

The town councils in Maiden and Dallas will both meet next Tuesday (June 11th). Cherryville's council will meet Monday June 10th.

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