Thursday, May 29, 2014

No property tax cut? That's OK

Six years after the recession prompted big cuts to schools, parks and libraries, Mecklenburg County is back on sound financial footing and wisely reinvesting in those and other areas.

County Manager Dena Diorio, who took the job in January, unveiled her first recommended budget today. It's a starting point, not an ending one, but appears to make smart, strategic investments in essential county services.

The highlights:

  • The property tax rate remains the same.
  • $26.8 million more to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, a 7.4 percent hike. That includes 2 percent raises for locally funded staff but not raises for teachers, which primarily is the state's responsibility.
  • Increased spending on parks and libraries, which were slashed in the downturn.
  • Substantial new hiring in the Department of Social Services, and funding to hire 33 more school nurses and three nurse supervisors, ensuring at least one nurse in every school.
  • Bulking up code enforcement with 24 new positions, and internal audit, with two new auditor positions.
  • 2 percent raises for county staff.
  • More money for the Charlotte Regional Partnership and the local film commission.
Diorio said development (and thus property tax) and sales tax collections are rebounding, putting the county on better financial footing than it was even before the recession. Guidelines call for the county to have 28 percent of prior year revenue in its piggy bank; the county is now at 40 percent and growing, allowing for the new spending.

The obvious question is whether some of this largesse should be returned to taxpayers in the form of a property tax cut. We haven't crunched the numbers, but it appears that any responsible rate reduction would put only a small amount back in taxpayers' pockets.

We won't believe the legislature will pass a reasonable teacher-pay plan until it happens, but Diorio is right not to get out ahead of legislators on that front. We do wonder whether the Charlotte Regional Partnership has earned more county money at a time when state changes put its role in flux and there is talk of redundancy in economic development efforts locally.

Overall, though, given all the services county residents demand -- including great schools, pleasant parks and modest help for the lowest-income residents -- Diorio seems to be off to a strong start.

-- Taylor Batten 


Kevin M said...

Ahh...the Observer Op Ed - where they never saw a tax increase they didn't like nor a tax cut that didn't need to be opposed.

alwaystomorroww said...

A teachable moment to Media Mondays...a growing economy provides more tax revenue than raising taxes. More jobs jobs jobs

Ghoul said...

So when the Republican state politicians don't raise teachers' pay, its bad.

But when Democrat county politicians don't raise teachers' pay, its good.

Just wanted to make sure I got that, thanks Taylor.

Cornelia said...

I think Taylor's wife has done consulting work for the county--maybe the library. Maybe he knows on which side his family's bread is buttered. Okay for the county to lie and steal from certain residents on the reval. Huh,Taylor? So long as you get yours.

Cornelia said...

When money is taken from taxpayers under false pretenses, as was the case with the most recent tax hike, it seems to me thsr it should be returned to the rightful owners, no matter how snall the amout. It is the principle of the thing, but, as we have seen, some have no principles.

gwalkerruns said...

Since cost of living is higher in Charlotte than most of NC it IS the responsibility of the county to boost teacher salaries. With SC so close it makes this decision a hardship for CMS. Glad she wasn't around four years ago when the county rightfully increased teacher pay.