Southampton County’s $83.66M FY25 budget adopted

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, June 12, 2024

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The Southampton County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 on Tuesday, June 4, to adopt the $83.66 million fiscal year 2025 county budget, which features real estate and personal property tax rates of 71 cents and $5, respectively, per $100 of assessed value.

Only five votes were cast on the budget because Northeast District Supervisor Christopher D. Cornwell Sr. was not present for the meeting.

The meeting, which ended up being about seven minutes long, had one item of business on the agenda — the budget and its accompanying FY 2025-29 Capital Improvement Plan, tax rate ordinance, fee ordinance, and Personal Property Tax Relief Act of 1998 ordinance.

Central District Supervisor and Board Chairman Dr. Alan W. Edwards described this year’s budget process at the beginning of the meeting.

“It’s been a long, long journey and probably it’s been my 13th, I think, and I think most difficult compounded by the economic situation and our reassessment,” he said, referencing the county’s recent land value reassessment that featured increases in value of at least 45.18%. “So it was a struggle. I think we got here in pretty good shape.”

Southeast District Supervisor Robert T. White said, “I think we’ve hashed this thing out about as much as we can and got it nailed down.”

White said, “I guess we’ll make a motion to approve the fiscal year ’25 budget, the fiscal year ’25-’29 CIP, the tax rates, fees and PPTRA.”

Northwest District Supervisor and Board Vice Chairman William Hart Gillette seconded the motion.

Edwards opened the floor once more for additional comments.

Southampton County Administrator Brian S. Thrower said, “I do appreciate the board’s willingness to meet over multiple work sessions and have a lot of debate and good conversation on the current-year and future-year budgets. I also wanted to thank Lynette (C. Lowe) and Christy (Newsome)  and Tina (Bradshaw) and all the staff and also all the department heads that contributed and the constitutional officers, just like (Sheriff) Josh (A. Wyche Sr.), that helped put the budget together. So thank you all for y’all’s work on that.”

Supervisors cast their votes by the raising of their right hands.

“Looks like it’s unanimous,” Edwards said. “The budget is set in stone.”

Thrower’s initial draft budget submitted on April 10 stood at $86,516,708 with a proposed real property tax rate of 86 cents per $100 of assessed value, a 3-cent reduction on the FY 2024 rate of 89 cents.

The board made major cuts to the draft budget over the last two months in the effort to lower the real estate tax rate. The board was aiming to compensate for the significant increases in assessed land value.

The proposed FY 2025 real estate tax rate went from 86 cents, to 79 cents, to 76 cents, to 73 cents and finally 71 cents.

To help achieve the 71-cent rate, the board agreed to increase the personal property tax rate in the general and public service corporations categories from $4.70 to $5 per $100 of assessed value, which was part of Thrower’s initial draft budget. 

Lowe, the county’s chief financial officer, noted that this $5 personal property tax rate was the traditional one the county had been at for some time before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 71-cent real estate tax rate will still result in an increase in taxes paid due to how much assessed land values increased.

To make the 71-cent rate possible, a wide variety of items were either reduced or cut entirely from the budget, which ended up standing at $83,660,702.

The board made significant cuts to local funding for Southampton County Public Schools. 

The amount of FY 2025 local funding proposed for the school division’s debt service has remained constant throughout this year’s budget development process at $2,434,265. 

What has changed significantly is the FY 2025 local funding proposed for the SCPS operating budget. 

Lowe noted that level local funding for the FY 2025 SCPS operating budget would have been $10,225,215. Thrower’s initial draft FY 2025 county budget proposed an increase in that amount to $10,736,476.

The FY 2025 county budget adopted on June 4 included $9,115,046 in local funding for the FY 2025 SCPS operating budget.

Gillette had said the required local minimum funding for the school system, as required by the state, is $8,212,634.

Some supervisors had noted that increases in state and federal funding meant the school division’s overall budget of more than $39 million still represented an increase on its FY 2024 budget.