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Pitt County raises property tax for first time in more than a decade

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GREENVILLE, Pitt County - The Pitt County Board of Commissioners voted to raise the property tax on Tuesday night by 1 cent per $100 of assessed valuation, marking the first time in more than a decade that body has enacted a tax increase.

It was a split decision, 5-4, with members of both parties breaking from traditional party norms in the vote. Democratic chairman Melvin McLawhorn joined commissioners Ann Floyd Huggins, Charles Farley and Mark Owens Jr. in voting against the increase as part of the county's proposed budget, while Republicans Jimmy Garris and Glen Webb joined Beth Ward, Mary Perkins-Williams and Tom Coulson in approving the hike.

The vote raises the tax rate to 69.6 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

Webb, in speaking with NewsChannel 12 the day after the vote, said it shouldn't come as a surprise to area voters that there would be Republicans voting for a tax increase or Democrats voting against one.

"If nothing else, you see that national philosophies don't always trickle down to the county level," he said. "Where we are is where the rubber meets the road in making sure we are providing the services to residents we are required to provide.

"No one made this decision lightly. When you looked at everything, you saw we didn't have any good choices."

Webb said it's the first time in 15 years the commissioners have approved a tax increase, but said it was out of necessity. The county has grown by 30 percent in population during that span, he said, but revenues have not kept up, particularly with the state pushing some unfunded mandates on to the counties and municipalities.

In Pitt County, Webb said, that cost runs north of $10 million.

It's a bitter pill to swallow for Webb, as he notes it's "my party in charge up there" in Raleigh.

"What I hear out of Raleigh is there's going to be $1 billion in cuts ... that'll put about 10 bucks back in my pocket," he said. "Meanwhile, our roads are a mess and our schools are in need."

More than $6 million in budget requests were turned down by the board even with the tax increase, Webb said. Those weren't exorbitant items, but rather things like repairs to heating and cooling at some local schools and upgrades to the security camera system at the county courthouse.

The increase, he said, won't be felt by most homeowners - it'll end up less than $2 for the annual property tax bill for the average Pitt County homeowner. What that money will do, however, is pay for necessary school positions, two gang investigator positions for the Pitt County Sheriff's Office, replacement vehicles for 30 PCSO cars and more.

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