Riggs: Tax hike needed for schools
CAMDEN — A proposed 3-cent increase in Camden County’s property tax rate in next year’s county budget will pay for important improvements, including a second school resource officer for the county schools, the chairman of the Camden Board of Commissioners says.
“That’s something that the people of the county want and we’ve got to pay for it somehow,” said Board of Commissioners Chairman Clayton Riggs, referring to the SRO. “We can’t just bring money out of the air.”
Riggs said the state Legislature might eventually provide funding for more school resource officers but the county doesn’t want to wait on the state. There is a big push among county residents to make the schools as safe as possible so the county is addressing the issue now with its own funding, he said.
With the proposed property tax rate hike, the average Camden homeowner could be looking at a tax increase of about $63 next year. That’s based on an average home valuation of $212,000. County Manager Ken Bowman’s recommended budget also uses $250,000 from the county’s fund balance.
Camden’s recommended general fund budget for next year is $12.5 million.
Building a new high school also is important to citizens, Riggs said, explaining that a state facilities grant that is helping fund the project requires local matching funds.
“I truly believe that we’ve got to support the school as much as we can,” Riggs said.
Riggs said the public expects the county commissioners not to waste their tax dollars, and the commissioners take that responsibility seriously.
“If you look around the county you can see that we’re not wasting money,” Riggs said. “We’ve got a very frugal board of commissioners.”
Even with the 3-cent hike, which would bring the county’s property tax rate to 75 cents per $100 property valuation, Camden would still have a lower tax rate than many other counties in the region, according to Riggs. Dare and Currituck counties are exceptions because they have beach property, he said. However, when you look at “interior” counties in the area, some like Bertie and Tyrrell have property tax rates “pushing a dollar,” and Camden is nowhere close to that, he said.
Top departmental expenditures in the recommended budget for 2018-19 include $1.8 million for the Sheriff’s Office; $1.1 million for capital outlay and debt service; $457,965 for public works and buildings and grounds; $455,274 for planning and inspections; and $240,877 for the Register of Deeds Office.
Among the non-departmental spending in the recommended budget is $2.6 million for Camden County Schools operations and $295,000 for school capital outlay; $529,973 for the county’s share of the Pasquotank-Camden Emergency Medical Services budget; $304,173 for Camden’s shares for Pasquotank-Camden Central Communications and Pasquotank-Camden Emergency Management; and $337,015 for the county’s share for Albemarle District Jail.
Riggs said while some citizens may oppose the property tax increase, most support necessary investments in infrastructure, schools and public safety. The county has added businesses such as Todd’s Pharmacy, Hardees, Hungry Panda and Dollar General, and if the growth is going to continue the county can’t fall behind in those areas, he said.
“To keep moving forward and to keep these projects going we’re probably going to need that 3-cent increase and it’s probably going to pass,” Riggs said.