GASTONIA, N.C. – At its special meeting Tuesday night, the Gaston County Board of Commissioners unanimously adopted the FY2024 county budget, along with a tax rate that is the lowest since at least 1970.
The new County property tax rate is 61 cents per $100 of assessed value, which is a 20-cent drop from the current rate. It is also lower than the revenue neutral rate of 62.1 cents.
County Manager Dr. Kim Eagle’s recommended budget included just four fully county-funded positions. The county will also be adding staff positions in its Department of Health and Human Services that are mostly federally funded, to handle the increased workload that will come with the expansion of Medicaid services in North Carolina.
“Following a revaluation process that saw massive growth in the tax base, it was crucial the County remained a responsible steward of those resources, using them to further our mission of providing excellent public service every day,” Eagle said.
Board Chairman Chad Brown (R-Riverbend Township), said the board was laser-focused on protecting residents from pain on their property tax bills.
“We’ve seen so many different challenges in the last 13 years I’ve been on this board,” Brown said. “We worked hard to make the citizens a priority. But we also understand there are many departments that need help to respond to growth.
“This is the largest property tax cut in the history of Gaston County. Twenty cents off the tax rate will be a big impact on everybody.”
Vice Chairman Bob Hovis (R-Crowders Mountain Township) said the budget process was thorough and resulted in a much better outcome for residents in 2023 than it did during the County’s last revaluation in 2019.
“This has not been a rushed or hurried process,” Hovis said. “This is much more like what I would have liked to have seen when we did the revaluation in 2019. That year, our tax decrease wasn’t large enough. I am very proud to vote for this budget and this decrease.”
Commissioner Ronnie Worley (R-South Point Township) said the board worked closely with Dr. Eagle to get the tax rate to that 61-cent level.
“I realize there are some people that will pay a little bit more, and I’m included in that,” Worley said. “To get to the 61-cent rate is a real win for us. It’s important to remember that inflation has also impacted the County.”
Worley noted that all other personal property, such as RVs, boats or other items subject to personal property taxes, would see a decrease across the board.
Commissioner Allen Fraley (R-Cherryville Township) said many of the citizen complaints centered on when the revaluation occurred, but noted that the county was required to do the revaluation by the North Carolina Department of Revenue.
“I know a lot of people were concerned this took place at the height of the housing market,” he said. “In the event we have another downturn of more than 15 percent, we would be required to do another revaluation, so people wouldn’t be stuck paying higher taxes.”
The FY24 budget includes putting money toward needed large-scale projects, including the design stages of an overhaul of the county’s main public health facility and design for a new public safety campus. Other significant projects include upgrades to softball and baseball fields and other facilities at Dallas Park; the beginning of work on the new Catawba Cove County park and trail system; funding to help complete expansion of the county’s fleet maintenance facility, and bridge improvements for the Interstate 85 and U.S. 74 bridge replacement projects.
The full budget is available online for review at GastonGov.com. Residents’ property tax bills will be mailed in mid-July after the total property tax rate is finalized. Residents either pay a municipal rate or a volunteer fire district rate in addition to the county property tax rate.
The presentation of the unified volunteer fire district budget and tax rate is set for the Board of Commissioners’ next meeting, on Thursday, May 25, at 6 p.m. in the Harley B. Gaston Public Forum.