NO ONE DISLIKES this word more than I do! I don’t care what kind of tax it is I don’t like it because I never know where the money goes or what I’m paying for. Although, the closer to home you get the easier it is to understand where your tax money goes and exactly what you are getting for it. Let’s look at the terms for calculating a property, or ad valorum, tax. The first is rather obvious, the value. This can fluctuate, and can be based on several factors. The first and biggest in recent times is the market value.
Every five years the county pays to have our properties reevaluated. The problem comes when the tax value decreases and the tax rate has to be adjusted. Why does the rate have to be adjusted? Why did my value go down and my taxes stay the same and not go down? Now the other side of the question: If the taxes, or revenue, go down for the municipality, what should we cut? Fewer police? Smaller, less responsive fire and rescue services?
This is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. “Revenue neutral” is a common term in local government when there is a revaluation. Revenue neutral means that the revenue to the municipality stays level by adjusting the rate to keep the same amount of revenue coming to the municipality regardless of the values. So as the values and rates fluctuate, so do the long term needs of the municipality or town.
For several years I have been talking about our volunteer firefighters getting older and our force getting smaller. We have to maintain a certain number or qualified firefighters on a roster and a certain number must show up at every call. We need a minimum of 20 names on the roster and four must show up at every call. We are having trouble meeting these minimums now, and as our volunteers phase out, it gets more and more difficult.
An idea I floated a few years ago was a merger of island fire departments. Several constituents and our neighbors in our town said they would rather see taxes go up than do a merger to form the Bogue Banks Fire Department. We are now at a point where we will need to raise taxes to increase our fire department manning so we can keep our manning levels up and our insurance rating down.
We will have to hire more firefighters for one more per shift, three in total, in the very near future. The number of volunteers may continue to drop and mergers of departments on the island may be on the table again. All of this said, I would recommend you take note of the budget meetings and the annual budget brief I will give in late May.
All of this in-house tax information is also susceptible to changes in the county sales and use tax distribution method, or the sales and tax distribution at the state level. These are three separate issues, and all are very important to the future of Pine Knoll Shores. We will continue to do our best to maintain a fair tax rate, and continue to work the tax issues at the county and state levels