New Hanover County’s budget for the 2015-16 year, which began on July 1, puts our focus on strategic management. In simple terms, that means aligning this year’s revenue and spending with the county’s long-term priorities, all with a goal of long-term financial sustainability.
This year’s $302 million General Fund is a commitment to good governance that holds overall spending constant while increasing support for superior public education; superior public health and safety; and funding economic development and intelligent growth, the three strategic priority areas for fiscal year 2015-16.
The budget does include a two-cent increase in the property tax. What’s important to note is that this two cents will be set aside in a debt service fund that will only go to pay debt
s that voters have approved through bond referenda. None of the additional tax will go toward funding general operations of the county.
It is also important to note that property owners outside the City of Wilmington and the beach towns will see their fire service district tax reduced to seven cents, an 11 percent drop. Another change that will save money for both residents and businesses: This budget lowers the tipping fee for depositing solid waste at the county landfill. That fee will now be $52 a ton, $3 less than last year or an 18.7 percent decrease.
The budget was approved by the board of commissioners on June 22. What follows are some highlights, which help tell the story of how the county will wisely spend the revenues you’ve entrusted to us.
First, I’d like to say a bit more about strategic management. While the budget covers just 12 months, it is meant to advance the county’s longer-term objectives, as set by the commissioners and, through bond issues, by the voters. Strategic management includes aligning our resources to meet our priorities, meeting ongoing obligations, and planning for the county’s long-term financial health.
The $302 million General Fund is based on a property tax rate of 57.4 cents per $100 of property value. That supports a staff of 1,538 full-time positions, an increase of six positions.
The new budget was enacted in the context of favorable economic conditions. That includes a 22 percent increase in collections by the Register of Deeds, an indicator of increased real estate activity; a very modest inflation forecast of 1 percent, according to Kiplinger’s Economic Outlook; and a forecast 15 percent increase in sales tax revenue.
The largest single category in the county budget is public education. Support for operation and debt service in the New Hanover County Schools and Cape Fear Community College accounts for 40 percent of the overall county budget. These are some specifics of how local tax funds are investing in superior public education.
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