Council okays two-cent tax hike

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 1, 2006

AHOSKIE – The price to live in Ahoskie just increased.

On Thursday, members of the Ahoskie Town Council did not object to Town Manager Tony Hammond’s proposed two-cent tax hike as Council unanimously approved the 2006-07 budget.

The vote came less than 40 hours from the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.

With Council’s blessings, the new ad valorem tax rate in Ahoskie now stands at $.72, an increase of two cents over the 2005-06 budget year. The new rate is based on an estimated total valuation of $205.6 million and an estimated tax collection rate of 96.9 percent.

“Municipalities throughout the state are finding themselves in a position of raising taxes in order to meet the rising costs of providing services,” Hammond said following the meeting. “Some have upped their tax rates by 10 cents or higher.”

A check of eastern North Carolina municipalities reveals Ahoskie’s tax rate, even with a two-cent increase, is not the highest. Williamston ($.80), Aulander ($.76) and Weldon ($.75) are listed as the top three. Murfreesboro ($.68), Rich Square ($.63), Scotland Neck, ($.60) and Winton ($.58) are in the middle of the pack while Edenton ($.43) and Tarboro ($.42) are on the low end of the scale.

Ahoskie’s new general fund budget was approved at nearly $4.26 million.

The Ahoskie Police Department (budgeted at $1.37 million for 2006-07) will receive over 30 percent of that funding. Streets ($596,568), Environmental Protection ($511,462), Administration ($410,188), Cultural & Recreational ($435,153), Fire Department ($354,557), Public Works ($252,245) and Buildings & Grounds ($122,860) are other town services budgeted at least six figures.

The leading sources of revenue are property taxes ($1.28 million), Local Option Sales Tax ($570,000), Garbage charges ($481,400) and Utilities Franchise Tax ($160,000).

Hammond said that $299,086 was transferred from fund balance to use for the 2006-07 budget. Despite that transfer of money, the town’s fund balance remains in excess of $1 million.

In a related budget item discussed at Thursday’s meeting, Council approved holding the town’s $10,000 contribution to the Ahoskie Rescue Squad until more information is shared on its future. Under current guidelines set forth by Hertford County Emergency Management, Ahoskie Rescue is used primarily as a first responder without rolling their rescue vehicles.

“We can easily put that money back into the budget once we learn exactly what will happen with Hertford County EMS,” Hammond said, referencing a decision made earlier this week by Hertford County Manager Loria Williams in regards to reorganizing that county service.

“I don’t think we have all the information we need to make a final decision on the (Ahoskie Rescue) funding,” Councilwoman Elaine Myers said. “This is the best way to handle it at the present time.”