GASTONIA In a 4-3 vote taken around midnight Tuesday, the Gaston County Board of Commissioners approved a new budget of $237 million, basically the same amount as last year’s.
Board Chairman Mickey Price, who voted for the budget, said Wednesday that additional revenue from a 3.5-cent property tax increase will go toward paying off school bond debt.
In June, commissioners in a 5-2 vote passed the county’s first tax hike in 12 years, bringing the rate from 83.5 cents per $100 valuation to 87 cents.
Price said the new budget provides for money to come out of the county’s fund balance, or savings. Major items that will be paid from the savings fund include $1.2 million for the new Stuart Cramer High School opening in August and $585,000 for a countywide reappraisal of property.
According to Price, county departments will be asked to absorb increases in such areas as liability insurance and fuel costs. If departments run into hardships, he said, “we gave them the option of coming back to us for possible more funding.”
Calling the budget process tough, Price said “I feel good about the budget.”
But commissioner Joe Carpenter saw things differently.
“It’s not balanced,” said Carpenter, who voted against the budget. “Just going along and plugging in stuff, I don’t consider that balanced.”
Carpenter favored a 5.4-cent property tax increase recommended by former county manager Jan Winters. On June 27, commissioners voted 4-1 to accept Winters’ resignation, which he said was forced.
Winters had pointed out there had been no tax increase for 12 years and that dipping into the county’s fund balance was “unsustainable.”
Carpenter said on Wednesday that the budget as approved continues to drain the fund balance.
“I see us moving backward as a county,” he said. “I have a different vision.”
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