Board makes major budget cuts in order to lower tax rates

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, May 8, 2024

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The Southampton County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Monday, April 29, to advertise a proposed fiscal year 2024-25 county budget that it cut significantly in order to reduce real estate and personal property tax rates from those originally proposed.

Central District Supervisor and Board Chairman Dr. Alan W. Edwards was the vocal leader advocating for the cuts, emphasizing that many in the county are experiencing financial duress due to inflation and the recent land value reassessment.


The originally proposed FY 2024-25 county budget on April 10 featured a 3-cent reduction in the current county real property tax rate, moving it from 89 to 86 cents per $100 of assessed value. 

Then the board preliminarily agreed to nearly $1.5 million in budget cuts on April 17 that would lower the rate to 79 cents.

On April 29, the board agreed to advertise a budget with enough cuts to allow for a rate of 76 cents.

The originally proposed personal property tax rates in the General and Public Service Corporations categories were each $5 per $100 of assessed value, representing a 30-cent increase to the current rate of $4.70. The board agreed on April 29 to advertise this rate at $4.75.

The originally proposed personal property tax rate in the farm machinery category was $1.95, a 5-cent increase on the current rate. The board agreed on April 29 to advertise this rate at its current level of $1.90.


To help make these advertised rates possible, the board agreed April 29 to increase water and sewer rates by $5.

Following are the increased water and sewer rates that are being advertised:

  • Water

-monthly residential base rate (less than or equal to 4,000 gallons): $36

-monthly commercial base rate (less than or equal to 4,000 gallons): $36

-monthly rate per 1,000 gallons (greater than 4,000): $14

  • Sewer

-monthly residential base rate (less than or equal to 4,000 gallons): $44

-monthly commercial base rate (less than or equal to 4,000 gallons): $44

-monthly rate per 1,000 gallons (greater than 4,000): $16

The board also cut local funding of Southampton County Public Schools. 

The school system requested $14,751,819 in local funds. The originally proposed budget included $13,170,741, which represented an increase of $511,261 in the category of operations, increasing the total there to $10,736,476. Of the $13.17 million total, the remaining $2,434,265 was allocated to debt service. 

Overall local funding approved for the schools for fiscal year 2024 was $12,604,194, with $10,225,215 for operations and $2,378,979 for debt service.

In the cuts made by the board on April 17 to achieve a 79-cent real estate tax rate, $411,261 was taken out of the local school funding for operations, reducing the increase to $100,000.

As the board looked for areas to cut on April 29, it examined the total school budget, including federal, state and local funding.

SCPS requested $42,744,553, including federal, state and local funding. The amount the school division was set to receive after the board’s cuts on April 17 was $40,752,214.

The board agreed to cut the school budget down to $40 million even on April 29, with some supervisors noting that this total still represented a $2.1 million increase on the total that SCPS received for FY 2024.

This increase — $2,121,306 to be exact — is due to increases in funding at the state and federal levels.

The local funding portion of the proposed $40 million amount equals $12,007,311, with $9,573,046 for operations and $2,434,265 for debt service.

The board also agreed to a variety of other cuts on April 29 that are reflected in the advertised budget.


Edwards spoke passionately throughout the April 29 meeting about the need to lower the proposed tax rates, drawing from his daily experiences as a medical doctor to illustrate his point.

“Listen, whatever we decide, I deal with the reality of this every day,” he said. “I deal with patients who have to make the decision whether they can eat or buy their medicines, every day, and that’s 80% of the people in this county. 

“I deal with people who can’t afford the good heart medications that keep them alive,” he said. “So that’s the reality I see, and if we bump the taxes up, that’s going to affect these people.”

He noted that the people in the room at the board’s meeting represented a group of 15% to 20% of people in the county with individual financial situations that would allow them to pay for the taxes that will result from increasing tax rates.

“They’re not going to like it, but they’re going to do it,” he said. “But that 80% of the other people in this county are going to be more in the hole than they are right now. I see it every day.”

Later he added, “These people have taken a beating, so I think we’re going to have to take a beating. We’re going to have to cut some services. Why should the county be the only thing that doesn’t take a cut?”

Southeast District Supervisor Robert T. White was particularly instrumental in figuring out adjustments to the budget that would allow for the rates the board ultimately agreed to advertise.

“I know it’s not perfect,” Edwards said of the agreed-upon budget, “but I think we’ve set a precedent here tonight that we just have to watch things and do the best we can.”

He encouraged board members to “keep their thinking caps on” with regard to what else they might be able to cut from the budget.


The Tidewater News contacted county administration to obtain the data showing how much the current 89-cent county real estate tax rate brought in for FY 2024 compared to how much money a 76-cent rate will bring in for FY 2025.

The data shows the impact of the significant increases in assessed land value that came out of the recent reassessment.

Southampton County Chief Financial Officer Lynette C. Lowe stated that the county’s real property tax rate of 89 cents per $100 of assessed value for FY 2024 was projected to bring in $14,512,830. The rate of 76 cents per $100 of assessed value for FY 2025 is projected to bring in $16,359,079. 

“This is a difference of $1,846,249,” she stated.