Chowan mulls 3.5-cent tax hike
By Miles Layton
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
EDENTON — Chowan commissioners were set to review next year’s proposed county budget on Wednesday, a spending plan that could raise the county property tax by 3.5 cents.
The $17.5 million proposed budget represents a $552,099 spending increase from the current year’s budget and includes funding for salary increases for 150 Edenton-Chowan Schools personnel designated as “classified,” school safety measures and several capital expenditures, including a boat for the sheriff's office.
According to budget documents, the proposed spending plan would raise the county property tax rate from 74 cents per $100 of valuation to 77.5 cents. The increase is needed, county officials said, to offset a projected decrease in revenues from emergency medical services, an agency expected to see a decrease in call volume next year; increased costs for employee health insurance; an increase in public school funding; and an increase in capital expenditures.
The Edenton-Chowan Schools is seeking $3.8 million in local operating funds, an increase of nearly $267,000 from the current year. The increase includes funding to give school hourly employees their first step pay increase since the 2008-09 school year. Also included is funding for a school social worker position.
Edenton Holmes head football coach Paul Hoggard endorsed the step salary hike for hourly employees designated “classified” in a Facebook video that was viewed 723 times within 24 hours of its posting on June 6. In the video, Hoggard noted those school staff members have not had a pay raise in 10 years.
“(Lack of fairness) in a team aspect leads to bad attitudes, leads to people quitting and leads to the destruction of teamwork,” Hoggard said. “The bigger picture with that and the real team we are talking about are our children, our future and their education. Everyone that is on the educational team has a great impact on the children in our county and everyone on that team deserves to be treated fairly – our administrators, our teachers, our bus drivers, cafeteria works, teachers’ assistants — all who help our children be successful and deserve to be treated fairly.”
Also included in the proposed budget is $203,103 for various items designed to enhance school safety. Included are $31,500 for video/electronic buzzer systems for the front entrances at each school; $5,900 for classroom door locks for the 6th-grade building; $15,000 in fencing to enclose the sides and rear of John A. Holmes High School; $42,000 to replace worn-out exterior school doors that cannot be adequately secured; and $108,703 to update interior/exterior camera systems on school buses.
The proposed budget also includes funding to purchase a rescue boat for the Chowan Sheriff’s Office. Total cost of the boat will be about $80,000. County officials want to spread the vessel’s cost over three to four years.
Currently the Chowan Sheriff's Office does not have a working boat despite the fact Chowan borders both the Chowan River and Albemarle Sound. If an emergency arises on local waterways, the sheriff's office has to contact other agencies like the U.S. Coast Guard or N.C. Wildlife Resources, which covers a multi-county area.
Sheriff Dwayne Goodwin has called having a boat for his department essential to public safety.