Saturday, February 4, 2023

Despite $4.6 million revenue dip, no tax increase proposed in Brunswick County budget

(Port City Daily graphic/Courtesy Brunswick County)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY — Brunswick County will not raise property taxes this year even though some sources of revenue are expected to dip due to the ongoing financial impacts from Covid-19.

Though sales tax and revenues collected through various county services and fees are projected to decrease, the county’s draft budget has cut back on spending to accommodate a balanced book.

“If we had continued on pretending everything was fine just because we were a strong financial county, I think that would have been a bad decision to make,” County Manager Randell Woodruff told Commissioners at their regular meeting Monday.

The draft budget appropriates $4.2 million out of the county’s general fund, a 25% decrease from the current fiscal year.

“Even though it doesn’t seem like it was drastic reductions, It was quite a challenge to be able to do that,” Woodruff said. “It’s pretty rare for a county to be able to do that. Especially one that’s growing such as ours.”

Overall, the proposed budget is up 0.9% from the current fiscal year, at $265 million.

Sales tax is projected to dip 17%, leaving a $4.6 million shortfall during the current fiscal year, which ends in July.

Despite the dip, growth in the county hasn’t stopped, given the continued flow of residential and commercial building permits being issued, according to the county manager’s budget message. In 2019, Brunswick County had the highest growth percentage in North Carolina and the 7th highest in the nation.

The county’s draft budget reflects the projection that anticipated growth will essentially offset major cuts that other stagnant areas may be facing.

Though property tax collections are projected to decrease by 1% to 97%, overall, overall revenues are projected to increase by $6 million, a 4.7% increase.

“The longer people are out of work, the longer the economy is not functioning, the tougher it’s going to be for people to pay their we can expect some decrease in that collection rate,” Woodruff said at the meeting.

Working with various department heads, Woodruff told Commissioners staff worked to identify capital projects that could be delayed. “In some cases we delayed them a year or put them off or figured out other ways to get us through until the economy is stronger,” he said.

No county layoffs are planned. The new draft budget includes 11 new positions, mostly in public safety, 10 of which are partially reimbursed by state funds. But the new roles aren’t projected to start until January 2021, so the county still has time to adjust its budget to remove those positions if necessary later on.

A budget hearing is planned June 15 at 6 p.m.

Below: The recommended FY2021 budget for Brunswick County.

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