$83 million budget approved in Currituck; tax increases for residents

Currituck commissioners approved an $83.3 million budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year at the June 24 special meeting. Residents are looking at another tax increase – 4 cents to fund the debt service for the construction of the $58 million Tulls Creek Elementary School in Moyock and an additional 2 cents to cover other expenses.

This brings the total ad valorem tax rate in Currituck County to 62 cents per $100 valuation of real and personal property, up from 56 cents last year and 46 cents in 2023.

Those living in the Corolla and Knotts Island will be charged additional 3 cents for public safety services funding.

Ad valorem taxes make up over $54 million, or 65% of the county’s total budgeted resources. Other major revenue sources include almost $11 million for other taxes and fees, which include occupancy tax, and $5 million for permits and fees.

Interim county manager Rebecca Gay, in her recommended budget presentation to commissioners, said 37% of the general fund goes to fund departments associated with public safety: sheriff’s office, fire, EMS, emergency management communications, animal services and control, and the detention center, and another 20% goes toward education.

At the June 24 meeting, commissioners added 10 teacher’s aide positions to the budget at a cost of $402,950.

Big ticket items in the current budget are going for the replacement of dated public safety equipment and vehicles. These include $700,000 for 10 patrol vehicles, $800,000 for two ambulances, and $1 million for fire apparatus.

The county committed to replace 100 portable handheld and vehicle mobile radios per year for the next five years that are reaching the end of their useful life at an annual cost of $600,000. This is year one of that commitment.

For computer replacement, $700,000 was approved.

More than $14 million is going for education, plus $1.5 million toward capital outlay.

Gay recommended a cost-of-living (COLA) adjustment for all county employees, with the lowest paid county workers to receive an 8% increase to aid in employee retention and to fill positions that have been open for a while. Based on pay grade, other employees are eligible for a 6% or 4% COLA.

Gay said that because of the recent occupancy tax ruling from the NC Court of Appeals, the county is no longer able to utilize occupancy tax revenue to supplement the expense of providing public safety services in Corolla. For example, last year during the tourist season, Gay said, the county approved a transfer of $3.39 million in occupancy tax revenue to support public safety in Corolla for emergency medical services and law enforcement, and also approved a $1.4 million transfer to the Corolla fire service district to support fire protection services.

“It remains a challenge to fund and provide services in the county with our unique geography and without other local governments to share in the provision of those services,” Gay said.

She recommended that the county pursue a quarter percent sales tax increase for the November ballot, which would increase revenue by $2 million.

Vice Chair Selina Jarvis said to the public in attendance at the meeting that she’s spent hours trying to make the budget the best it can be. “That’s all I can do and I think that’s all anyone up here can do … I don’t think any of us go to bed wanting to harm employees, harm the schools, harm seniors, but that’s the message that we always get. But the fact of the matter is this has been a struggle for me and I know for fellow commissioners as well. I just want you to understand we’ve heard you, but we can’t wait for that pot of money to fall out of the sky because it’s simply not going to come.”

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