Tuesday, October 4, 2022

New Hanover County commissioners approve $329 million budget

New Hanover County Commissioners voted Monday evening to approve the $329 million 2017-18 budget. (Port City Daily Photo/MICHAEL PRAATS)
New Hanover County Commissioners voted Monday evening to approve the $329 million 2017-18 budget. (Port City Daily Photo/MICHAEL PRAATS)

WILMINGTON — Property taxes are going down for residents of New Hanover County after the New Hanover County Commissioners voted Monday evening to approve the budget for Fiscal Year 2017-2018. The general fund will see an increase of 2.4 percent from Fiscal Year 2016-2017 for a total of $329.4 million.

Property tax rates for county residents will decrease from approximately 62 cents to 57 cents per $100 of valuation.

The budget also saw the reduction of funding provided to several non-profit organizations in the community – an issue that drew criticism from members of the public as well as Commissioner Rob Zapple. Dozens of residents signed up to speak during the public hearing portion of the meeting – the majority of which spoke on behalf of different non-profit groups.

Zapple also was the lone dissenting vote against approving the budget which passed with four yes votes and one no.

The new budget also gives all county employees a 2.5 percent pay raise to account for cost of living.

“The budget contains a salary increase across the board for our very hard-working county employees – that also includes these five commissioners up here and my recommendation would be that we do not get that salary increase,” Commissioner Patricia Kusek said before commissioners approved the budget.

Commissioner Skip Watkins made a motion to approve the amended budget, including Kusek’s suggestion of exempting the commissioners from the pay raise.

Zapple voiced his dissent with the suggestion that the commissioners do not accept the cost of living increase.

“I along with my fellow commissioners are the lowest paid people in the county … yet we have responsibility 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, seven days a week … I work hard for my money, I also respect the time I put in and the time every other commissioner puts in … I do not see a problem, I do not have a problem accepting a 2.5 percent raise for the work that I do for $17,000 a year,” Zapple said.

Zapple requested Watkins to separate the motion to only approve the budget, and then vote on the pay increase – Watkins obliged after some discussion.

The motion to exempt commissioners passed, with commissioner’s Jonathan Barfield and Zapple in opposition. That means the commissioners will not receive a pay raise.

This article has been corrected to properly reflect the results of the commissioners’ pay raise.

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