BRUNSWICK COUNTY — As Brunswick County continues to experience growth, taxes are set to remain steady.
Brunswick County’s proposed 2019-2020 fiscal budget does not include a property tax increase. Still, it will expand to keep up with growth in expenses and revenues.
January’s tax revaluation increased taxable property values by a total of about 10%, according to the recommended budget. This revaluation, paired with a near-perfect collection rate, gave the county room to avoid raising taxes, which officials hope to maintain at the same 48.5-cent rate next budget cycle as well.
With an estimated total population of 137,000, Brunswick County has grown by nearly 90% since 2000. At $263.2 million, its budget is on track to grow 8.5% in the fiscal year 2019-2020 year compared to the current budget cycle.
On par with expenses, revenues are projected to increase by 9% compared to last year, with 4% more expected from sales tax.
Staff grows, expenses grow
An employer of over a thousand people (including full and part-time), Brunswick County’s salary, wages, and benefits package is set to remain competitive, according to a budget presentation earlier this month. The county will add on 19 new general government positions at an average $57,771 salary. Nine new enterprise positions are expected, at an average $56,968 salary. Also, five new water utility positions will be accounted for, eight new detention officers added in April will stay on board, with eight new paramedics to accommodate for the new EMS program the county just assumed from Leland.
Brunswick County Schools will receive an additional $3 million, a 7% operating increase, at a total increase of 5% compared to the 2018-2019 budget cycle.
Brunswick County’s general debt service will increase from $13.5 million to $18.6 million, a 32% increase, to add on one phase of the 2014 Brunswick County School Bond.
Per pupil spending at Brunswick County Schools will remain above the state’s average. With $2,868 spent per pupil, Brunswick County Schools is 22% above the state average.
Utilities, making way for big projects
The county anticipates water revenues to increase by $1 million, or 4.2% of the total $24.6 million expected. Of that amount, new service connections (i.e., new development) will contribute an estimated $1.7 million. Water customers will increase by 2%, according to the draft budget, to reach an estimated 42,481 connections in 2019-2020 (this figure is not inclusive of wholesale customers).
Wastewater customers are projected to increase by 4%, to reach 18,449 connections.
Tiered water and wastewater rate changes are anticipated in 2022, following a recommendation by the consulting firm, Raftelis Financial Consultants. The recommended rate changes are needed to finance anticipated utility debt; $179.4 million is estimated to fund the county’s water expansion and upgraded reverse osmosis treatment upgrades; $39.1 million is needed to expand its northern wastewater plant.
Brunswick County Commissioners will consider adopting recommended rate changes and the 2019-2020 budget at their upcoming board meeting on June 17 at 6 p.m. in Bolivia.
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