Education

Some Halifax residents could see property tax increase

Posted April 30, 2012

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— More than 21,000 voters living within the Halifax County Schools district have a chance to vote could go to the polls next week on a property tax increase that would help boost local funding for the school system.

The school system currently spends $879.82 in local funding per student to help operate the schools. The proposed supplemental education tax – 19 cents per $100 valuation on property – would increase the school's operating budget from $44.9 million to $48.5 million, raising the local per-pupil expenditure to $1,889.28, which is closer to the state average of $1,902.04.

Although that is the proposal for the school district, voters will only decide on whether there should be a property tax increase. The Halifax County Board of Commissioners ultimately will decide how much it should be.

If approved, it would go into effect in July.

"It's very important that voters understand that we cannot pay the light bill (and) water bill with state and federal funds," said Halifax County Schools Board of Education Chairwoman Donna Lynch Hunter. "We have to depend on the local funds for that."

The school system, which serves more than 3,600 students, has had to make cuts to its budget in recent years.

For example, last year, it employed 10 maintenance workers to cover its 11 schools. For the 2011-12 budget, it had to cut those positions to three maintenance workers for the entire district.

The lack of funding has also had an effect on the teacher turnover rate, which is more than double the state average in elementary and high schools.

 Tax increase could benefit Halifax students

Two of the three other school systems in Halifax County – Roanoke Rapids Graded School District and Weldon City Schools – already have supplemental taxes that help pay to keep schools operating.

But some taxpayers are concerned about providing additional funding for the school system, which, in recent years, has come under state scrutiny because of how the district has handled money.

Roanoke Rapids Mayor Emery Doughtie is one of those who is concerned.

Although he lives in another school district in the county, he also owns property that sits within the Halifax schools district.

"We don't feel like additional dollars are warranted at this time," Doughtie said.

He worries that the school system can't be trusted to handle the additional funding appropriately because of past spending issues.

An audit of the school system's finances in 2007 found that the district's finance team did not spend funds properly and ended up owing the state nearly $1 million. In the wake of the discovery, the district fired its finance director and sought financial guidance from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

Doughtie said that he is also concerned about how the higher tax rate could potentially keep businesses from coming to the county.

But proponents of the supplemental tax say it would not necessarily affect businesses because incentives to bring jobs to the county are possible.

Residents are also unhappy about the proposed increase.

Maurice Tipton, who moved with his wife in August from Rocky Mount to Littleton, says it would increase his taxes on 187 acres of land from $2,200 a year to at least $2,700.

"We moved out here to try to get away from the high taxes," he said.

6 Comments

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  • tayronachan May 3, 2012

    It seems the more we spend on education and health care, that the quality goes down and costs go up. I manage rental properties in Halifax Co., if this passes rents will go up, and people will be poorer. And please note the fact that "...some taxpayers are concerned about providing additional funding for the school system, which, in recent years, has come under state scrutiny because of how the district has handled money." REALLY?!? You don't say. Sounds like possible corruption to me, or at the least criminal negligence. So we got a poorer education system and we're 1 million more in debt to boot. If that's how the county is going to spend my tax dollars I'd rather keep my money and have dirt roads.

  • fayncmike May 2, 2012

    "People scream about the need for quality education but when faced with the possibility of paying a few more bucks in taxes, go postal. Where do they think the money is going to come from?
    piene2"

    That's exactly right

  • edith wharton May 1, 2012

    By all means, increase taxes in one of the poorest counties in NC. By no means ensure that COMPANIES located in NC pay more taxes - heaven forfend!

  • lsdhome May 1, 2012

    Be careful here, folks, in reading the comments of Hizzonner the Mayor of Roanoke Rapids. Just remember that it's not his kids whose education is at stake.

  • piene2 May 1, 2012

    People scream about the need for quality education but when faced with the possibility of paying a few more bucks in taxes, go postal. Where do they think the money is going to come from?

  • bluntzmon Apr 30, 2012

    1. What happened to all the money from the education lottery.
    2. Three school districts in one county
    3. First they went to uniforms and the said it would get better,didn't happen.
    4. Prior to a busted budget workers at central office were overpaid by ECSU's now chancellor,never recouped that money.
    5. Now that want more,didn't the judge say it was academic genocide happening in halifax county.

    This is pathetic.