EMS expansion “biggest driver” behind tax increase

Published 1:15 am Thursday, May 26, 2022

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Expanding Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is the “biggest driver” behind a proposed tax increase of five cents for every $100 of residents’ taxable property, according to Washington City Manager, Jonathan Russell. 


A special budget workshop was held on Tuesday night (May 24) where Russell gave an overview of the city budget to council members. 


A five cent increase on the tax rate will generate an estimated $400,000 in additional revenue. Of the estimated revenue, $307,000 would go toward employing four, full-time EMS paramedics, and in the future, go toward paying for a quick response vehicle or traditional ambulance. 


According to Russell, the City of Washington has not had a tax increase “outside of the two cent increase for the new police station,” he said. The increase occurred in 2017 to help pay for materials and operational costs. 


The City has had a “tremendous static period” of no change in tax rates in the last 15 years, he said. In 2006, Beaufort County and the City of Washington had similar tax rates between 50 and 60 cents between 2006 and 2011. From 2012 to 2018 the county and city were within a three cent difference with the city being cheaper at 50 cents. In 2019, the City of Washington tax was 53 cents, but the county tax was raised to 62 cents. In 2020 and 2021 the City tax was 53 cents, but the county tax was 0.776 cents. Revaluation took place in Beaufort County in 2019. 


The budget meeting also covered a salary increase for full-time city employees. The City of Washington has a goal to not have full-time employees making less than $30,000 or $15 per hour. Currently there are 17 city employees earning between $26,000 and $30,000. One library staff position is being paid $21,000. Therefore, a five percent salary increase has been proposed which is based on an inflationary rate, Russell explained. A proposed hybrid model will determine how much of an increase city employees see. Though there is not a true midpoint, the city’s model would be a five percent salary increase or an additional $2,412 depending on the employee’s salary if it is greater than $48,228. 


Council did not take any action at the meeting on Tuesday. Their next regular meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 13 at 5:30 p.m. at the City Council Chambers.