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What’s in the budget?: An in-depth look

Local towns keep taxes steady into 2020

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How much you spend on taxes, and what your government spends your money on, can vary greatly depending on where you live.

In Wake County, for instance, commissioners voted to raise property taxes by 6.63 cents to give more money to schools, libraries and other programs. That brings the tax rate up to 72.07 cents per every $100 a home is valued during next fiscal year — which begins Monday.

In Franklin County, however, commissioners are keeping the tax rate flat going into the new fiscal year. But at 80.5 cents, it is still higher than in Wake.

Citizens who get extra services from their town or city — services such as water and sewer and local police departments — pay municipal taxes on top of those rates. As the population continues to soar in Wake and Franklin counties, local governments are finding they are raising more money this year than they have before, and none of them raised taxes.

Here’s how your town plans on spending your tax dollars.



Tax rate: 72 cents

Total spending: $3.35 million

Spending per person: $1,542

Spending increase from 2018-19: 77.5 percent

Franklinton has the highest tax rate on this list.

It’s budget also grew more than other municipalities. That’s in part due to borrowing $900,000 to fund street paving and new equipment for police and the streets department.

In his budget message to commissioners, Town Manager Gregory Bethea notes that the average property tax rate for towns the size of Franklinton is closer to 43 cents. He wrote that the town has the ambitious goal of reducing its property tax rate by nearly 30 cents.

To generate more revenue, Bethea proposed the town take over billing for its solid waste collection ­ — in turn getting a cheaper rate from contractor Waste Services. The town is also increasing its developer fees, bringing in about $10,000 more.

But it will be at least another year before the town will be able to reduce its tax rate, Bethea said.

Here’s how Franklinton is breaking up most of its spending: Streets, 33.7 percent; police, 29.5 percent; administration, 24.3 percent; and solid waste, 7.5 percent.



Tax rate: 43 cents

Total spending: $19.08 million

Spending per person: $1,095

Spending increase from 2018-19: 10.8 percent

Knightdale is the fastest-growing city in Wake County, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and its property tax revenue is expected to be 6.5 percent more next year than during the current year.

“While this growth continues to improve the quality of life for our citizenry, it presents significant challenges in meeting the service demand needs for a jurisdiction undergoing such significant growth,” Town Manger Bill Summers wrote in his budget proposal.

With that growth, the town government is expanding — funding five new positions including police officer and assistant fire chief. Employees are also eligible for a 2 percent merit-based increase in pay.

The town is also budgeting 6.4 million for capital projects including a greenway extension, a new public works facility and soccer fields at Forestville Road Athletic Park.

This coming fiscal year will also be the first in which the town won’t operate its own water and sewer program, after a utility merger with Raleigh.

Here’s how Knightdale is breaking up most of its spending: Police and fire, 31.5 percent; public works, 19.7 percent; administration, human resources and finance, 11.4 percent; debt service, 8.0 percent; and parks and recreation, 7.6 percent.



Tax rate: 48 cents

Total spending: $10.33 million

Spending per person: $1,273

Spending increase from 2018-19: 17.8 percent

Like Knightdale, Rolesville population, revenue and spending have been growing close to 10 percent or more in recent years.

The town is adding 2.5 full-time positions, including a police officer and human resources analyst. Rolesville will also give a 1 percent raise to all employees and is planning to spend 15 percent more on employee health insurance.

The town will spend $1.9 million on capital projects including replacing the police vehicle fleet and radios, leasing a backhoe and buying a new mower. The budget includes $44,000 for economic development and uses $640,000 from the town’s cash reserves to fund projects including a Main Street Vision survey and design project, improvements to town hall and implementing wayfinding signage.

Town Manager Kelly Arnold noted in his proposal that the budget is not setting aside funds for some larger projects that may or may not surface during this fiscal year. That includes financing a new fire station, a new IT system and lighting along U.S. Highway 401 Bypass.

Here’s how Rolesville is breaking up most of its spending: Police and fire, 34.6 percent; capital projects, 18.5 percent; public works, 15.2 percent; administration and finance, 10.1 percent; parks and recreation, 9.4 percent; and planning and economic development, 5.4 percent.


Wake Forest

Tax rate: 52 cents

Total spending: $78.34 million

Spending per person: $1,778

Spending increase from 2018-19: 6.7 percent

Wake Forest is the largest town in this list, so it’s no surprise it’s spending the most money. Wake Forest also supplies residents with power, so it is expecting to pull in $20.3 million from utility fees. That money, in turn, goes to buying the electricity it provides.

For next fiscal year, the town is adding six new positions. Town Manger Kip Padgett said it wasn’t feasible to create the 20 new positions departments requested — despite the fact that the departments could justify creating those new jobs.

The town is also using $2.19 million from its cash reserves, mostly for new one-time projects. A total of $3.63 million is budgeted for capital projects over the next year, including $800,000 for improvements to electricity infrastructure and $705,000 for public safety vehicles.

The budget also provides work to start projects previously approved by voters or commissioners, contributing to $6.7 million in debt. Holding Park pool, Joyner Park Community Center, an expansion to the Northern Wake Senior Center, downtown streetscape, the Stadium Drive Complete Street project and others were among those projects that were prioritized.

Here’s how Wake Forest is breaking up most of its spending: Electric service, 28.9 percent, police and fire, 22.9 percent; public works, 10.7 percent; debit service, 8.6 percent; administration, finance, communications and IT, 6.0 percent; planning, inspections and development, 5.9 percent; and parks and recreation, 5.2 percent.



Tax rate: 49 cents

Total spending: $8.03 million

Spending per person: $1,028

Spending increase from 2018-19: 10.8 percent

Like other eastern Wake County towns, Wendell is seeing rapid population growth.

To keep up, the town is creating four new positions: a sworn officer, a police records and training administrator, a public works specialist and a parks maintenance technician.

The new budget also gives a 2 percent cost of living raise to all employees and allows for an additional 1 percent merit-based raise.

The budget uses $696,500 from the town’s cash reserves to move forward on various construction projects, including sidewalks on Wendell Boulevard. It will also fund the purchase of new police and public works vehicles, update town technology and make improvements to Wendell Park.

The town will not take on any new debt.

Here’s how Wendell is breaking up most of its spending: Police and fire, 24.0 percent; public works, 23.8 percent; administration, finance and IT, 10.9 percent; parks and recreation, 9.9 percent; water and sewer, 6.2 percent; and economic development and planning, 5.9 percent.



Tax rate: 65.5 cents

Total spending: $2.97 million

Spending per person: $2,220

Spending increase from 2018-19: 25.6 percent

Youngsville commissioners voted to reduce its tax rate by half a penny, down from 66 cents in the current year.

Despite that, with growth in the tax base and other revenue, the town plans on spending about $600,000 more than budgeted last year.

Part of that comes from an increase in the town’s vehicle fee — from $5 to $20. Solid waste fees are also up 10 percent.

With the money, the town plans to buy seven police vehicles, install new lights at Luddy Park and conduct a study to analyze town employee pay. In fact, Youngsville is spending more per resident than any other municipality on this list.

Here’s how Youngsville is breaking up most of its spending: Public safety, 59.0 percent; administration, 18.0 percent; public works, 9.4 percent; public facilities, 6.6 percent; and parks and recreation, 5.2 percent.


Tax rate: 59.2 cents

Total spending: $12.06 million

Spending per person: $2,136

Spending increase from 2018-19: 1.67 percent

Despite high population growth, Zebulon’s spending is staying relatively level this year — although spending is up about 20 percent from three years ago.

Town Manager Joe Moore said Zebulon’s population is growing by nearly two people a day, and that land use is moving away from agriculture and toward development.

Major new expenses in the budget include sidewalks on North Arendell Avenue, various road improvements and stormwater work.

But the budget puts off to future years some of the town staff’s asks — including hiring a new detective and replacing some aging vehicles.

Here’s how Zebulon is breaking up most of its spending: Police and fire, 38.2 percent; streets, stormwater and sanitation, 21.7 percent; administration and finance, 11.0 percent; buildings and grounds, 9.0 percent; parks and recreation, 8.7 percent; and planning and development, 8.1 percent.