Mecklenburg County residents could see a property tax rollback - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Mecklenburg County residents could see a property tax rollback

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MECKLENBURG COUNTY, NC (WBTV) -

They're talking taxes in Mecklenburg County. But this time residents won't have to dig deeper in their wallets. In fact, good news might be coming. If some county commissioners have their way, the property tax rate will drop.

Last year the Board of County Commissioners raised the property tax rate 2.35 cents. So right now you are paying more than 81 cents for every $100 worth of property. That means if your home is worth 200-thousand dollars, your tax went up about $50 last year.

This year, county officials say conservative fiscal discipline helped them to save money in the reserve fund. Better than expected property tax collections and sales tax revenue brought in more money.

"I think it provides us some flexibility and opportunities we haven't had in several years" said County Manager Dena Diorio.

Commissioners have to decide what to do with the tens of millions of extra dollars in county funds.

Commissioner Bill James, who favors a tax rate reduction, said "is the first inclination I found money under the mattress lets go spend it. Or, is it I found money under the mattress I'm going to put in the savings account."

"We've got the highest tax in the region" said Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour. "We got extra revenue here. We can dial back the taxes. I just think it's moral we should do so."

"I could support rolling the tax back as long as it doesn't reduce services" said Commissioner George Dunlap. "When we start reducing the tax rate, the first place to get hit is education."

Commissioner Dunlap said "it really might make sense given everything that's been presented" to reduce the current tax  "however what I do not want is for education to take the brunt of any reduction that we might give."

Some commissioners believe county services need attention.

School nurses have to spilt their time in different schools. Some commissioners want to add more school nurses.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools will likely ask for more money.

And, the Department of Social Services wants to increase staffing.

"I definitely want to expand services so we can either keep it {tax rate} where it is or lower it but there's a definite need" said Commissioner Kim Ratliff. "It's a possible way to do both. We can expand services and cut taxes. But I don't want to get citizens' hope up too high."

Commissioner Pat Cotham said she doesn't want see services suffer. 

"What I know right now I'm for reducing the tax rate" said Commissioner Cotham. "I think the tax payers do need a break. They've been having some higher taxes. If we can lower them a year that would be great."

Commissioner Karen Bentley said she wants to see Mecklenburg County reduce the tax rate and compete with neighboring counties.

"When you look at the out-migration of residents from Mecklenburg County to those neighbors I think it's something we need to pay attention to and be more competitive."

Data from the U-S Census Bureau show Mecklenburg County's population has increased over the last ten years. There are almost a million residents.

"The people moving here bring lower income than those that are leaving the county" said Commissioner Bentley. "And I think it's something we need to pay close attention to not only for short term but probably more important for long term."

"What is more important" asked Commissioner Dunlap. "To make it good for those who decide to leave than it is for those who are deciding to come."

Commisioner Trevor Fuller, Chair of the Board, said he believes before commissioners decide the tax rate, they should ask "what is the level of service that we provide to the community? What is the cost of providing that service? And then you give out the tactics to meet those needs."

The County Manager has to present a recommended budget to commissioners in May.

"The message I've got from the board is I've got some flexibility to expand services as well as try to make some reduction to the tax rate" said Manager Diorio.

Diorio says department heads will submit their budget requests at the end of March.

CMS officials will likely submit their budget request in April.

The County Manager will then work on her recommended budget based on all requests.

"There's an opportunity to meet everybody's needs" said Manager Diorio. "Education is a priority. Community College funding is a priority. We've heard about school nurses consistently that - that is something that really needs attention."

Diorio said county departments also needs funding.

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