Saturday, April 20, 2024

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Graham, NC 27253
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No higher taxes, or slush funds, for fire districts

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One of the lesser-known dimensions of a property revaluation year is that, in addition to revised property tax rates for the county (to be set by county commissioners) and various towns and cities (to be set by town and city councils and boards of aldermen), another group which needs to reevaluate, and consider revising, their tax rates are local fire districts.

Indeed, in some rural areas of the county, the fire district tax makes up about 10 to 15 percent of the total amount of local taxes paid by residents.

We’re quite sure that rural residents are not going to want to see their fire district assessments go up 80 percent any more (the overall rate of property value increases, according to the county) than they want to see their county or municipal taxes go up by that proportion.

Yet it is clear from comments from the county commissioner chairman this week, and our own instinct of how they work, that some fire districts may be hoping no one will notice the windfall they stand to get if their fire district rates aren’t adjusted.

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We hate to be the ones to break it to them, but we do not think irate taxpayers are going to want to pay higher fire district taxes, based on those higher home and land valuations, any more than they want to pay higher regular property taxes.

Even though we appreciate the job these firefighters do – professionals and volunteers – and we’re sure most residents in their districts are equally grateful, there’s still no reason to think that revaluation should be used as a pretext to hike their revenues, and their districts’ “savings,” or slush funds, for future spending.

Fire districts better get a realistic handle on what a “revenue neutral” rate would be for each of the 12 districts.

If they don’t, it will be left to the county’s commissioners to do so.

And we certainly hope they will.

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