Commissioners mull proposed budget, tax increases

ELIZABETHTOWN — The Bladen County Board of Commissioners is still pondering the 2015-16 proposed budget and are prepared to convene on Monday to once again discuss matters.

The proposed budget carries a proposed tax increase of about 0.7 cents per $100 valuation.

“It’s largely related to the jail project,” said Bladen County Manager Greg Martin.

He said about 4.75 cents is allocated to the jail project for projected operating costs and jail related debt service.

Martin said there is also a need for additional revenue for the EMS service and for economic development related matters.

He said that in order to maintain a revenue neutral rate, the county needs to add approximately 0.1 cents per $100 valuation.

When asked about education needs in the county, Martin said currently, the proposed budget holds the county education budget at the current rate.

Martin said that the county has seen a decrease in property values due to the county’s revaluation and that the final numbers are still remaining to be resolved. Martin did not offer a figure as to how much the revaluation has affected the county’s property values.

“All of the appeals have yet to be resolved,” said Martin of the revaluation.

He said also there are some items still remaining to be keyed into the computer.

Bladen County Commissioner Chairman Charles Ray Peterson said, “There is going to be a property tax increase. I don’t know at this point that we know what it will be. I know people aren’t going to be happy.”

Peterson said that everyone has worked together to generate the proposed budget.

He reminded that the jail project is a mandate and the county had little choice in the matter.

Bladen County Resident Superior Court Judge Douglas Sasser sent a letter to the county’s legal team at Johnson and Johnson Law Firm in Elizabethtown last year outlining needed repairs and upgrades as well as requesting a new jail be built.

Peterson said that the board will look at the budget again on Monday night and hopefully, they will approve it.

“It’s been a long process. Everyone’s been working,” Peterson of the budget process.

He added that it is “trying time to be a commissioner.”

Erin Smith can be reached at 910-862-4163.