Thursday, June 30, 2022

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Graham, NC 27253
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Commissioners cut tax rate 1¢; specify funding for extra SROs

Vote is 4-1, with commissioner Pam Thompson opposed

Alamance County’s board of commissioners has signed off a new county budget that includes provisions for 14 new school resources officers as well as a 1 penny reduction in the county’s property tax rate. The tax rate would be cut from 66 to 65 cents per $100 valuation.

The new budget, which passed 4-to-1 during a regularly-scheduled meeting on Monday, was largely identical to a proposed spending plan that Alamance County’s interim manager Sherry Hook had originally unveiled to the county’s elected leaders in May. This plan nevertheless contained a handful of changes which John Paisley, Jr., the chairman of Alamance County’s commissioners, spelled out in some detail before Monday’s vote.

“The difference may be $30 on average. But we have to keep in mind both small and large businesses that we want to keep and attract…and a once cent reduction would be significant to these folks.” – county commissioner Craig Turner

“The taxpayer should get some benefit from our increased tax base. I’d like it to be two pennies…and I know there’s two pennies there.” – county commissioner Bill Lashley

Paisley conceded that he and his colleagues have hammered out these various tweaks in the month or so since Hook presented her proposed budget to the commissioners.

“I have talked to each commissioner individually,” the commissioners’ chairman added before he directly addressed a reporter from The Alamance News  [Tomas Murawski], “and, Tomas, we have not violated the Open Meetings Law,” he assured.

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Paisley went on to describe a series of modifications to the manager’s budget needed to fund the 14 new school resource officers that would guarantee the Alamance-Burlington school system has at least one full-time resource officer at each of its schools. This objective abruptly became a priority for both the commissioners and the Alamance-Burlington school board in the wake of last month’s fatal school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

Paisley noted that, of the 14 new school resource officers he was proposing, four had already appeared in the interim county manager’s budget.

He added that another six officers would be hired using $375,000 from the funds which the schools automatically receives from the legal penalties and fines that are assessed by the local court system.

Meanwhile, Paisley said that the county will provide another $261,000 from its own general fund to bankroll the final four new positions. He went on the describe a complex reshuffling of funds that he said would free up this additional cash within the constraints of the interim manager’s budget.

In addition to the provisions for the new resource officers, Paisley touched on some other compromises that had been struck behind the scenes in order to enable the sheriff’s office to hire three forensic investigators and add one new position at the county’s veterans service office.

The commissioners chairman insisted that these revisions would still leave enough slack in the budget to lower the county’s property tax rate from 66 to 65 cents for every $100 of value.

A majority of Paisley’s fellow commissioners agreed that this one-cent cut will provide some well-deserved relief to the county’s property taxpayers.

“The difference may be $30 on average,” conceded commissioner Craig Turner. “ But we have to keep in mind both small and large businesses that we want to keep and attract…and a once cent reduction would be significant to these folks.”

“The taxpayer should get some benefit from our increased tax base,” added commissioner Bill Lashley. “I’d like it to be two pennies…and I know there’s two pennies there.”

The only dissent from Paisley’s proposal came from commissioner Pam Thompson, who objected to the property tax cut in light of various departmental needs that she felt have received short shrift from the board of commissioners.

“I’m thinking about the taxpayer,” she declared. “But I’m also hearing parks and rec talking about upgrading their ball fields.”

It was the second consecutive year that the commissioners have managed to squeeze down the tax rate (from 67 to 66 cents last year and down to 65 cents this year).

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