RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Wake County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Monday night to adopt a $1.7 billion budget for 2022-23.
The county said the measure includes "significant investments in public health and safety, housing affordability, education and quality of life to help the county meet increasing service demands."
"We're proud to adopt this budget, which invests in areas where the Commission wants to make significant strides to benefit our community," said Sig Hutchinson, chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners. "It shows that we care about our residents and are committed to expanding the programs and services that improve safety, health and the wellbeing of our people, so they can thrive."
There will also be an increase in property taxes.
Commissioners voted to raise the property tax increase to 1.95 cents, which the County said will generate $38 million in revenue. The county manager recommended a 1.5-cent property tax increase in May. The 0.45 cents added by the board Monday night will generate an estimated $8.75 million in revenue.
This brings the total tax rate to 61.95 cents per $100 of property tax valuation. The owner of a $337,000 home, which is the average assessed home value in Wake County, would pay about $66 more per year compared to last year.
About 52% of the budget is for funding for the Wake County Public School System, which includes a $50 million increase in funding over Fiscal Year 2022 for WCPSS. There is a $40,000 increase to fund Universal School Breakfast for all WCPSS students.
These increases bring the county's investment in the WCPSS operating budget to more than $594.2 million.
"There is no greater investment we can make for our children's futures than in education," said Wake County Commissioner Susan Evans. "These funding increases will help ensure students have well-trained teachers, as well as adequately paid bus drivers, cafeteria workers and other non-certified staff who support effective learning environments."
Commissioners also voted themselves a hefty raise.
The total annual salary for commissioners will increase to $37,856 with $9,000 in allowances for "travel and technology." Last year, received $25,288 with $3,300 in allowances.
The county said the salary adjustment "is in line with the county's efforts to set a living wage for its employees."
In the adopted budget, all regular staffers will receive at least $18.20/hour.
Other budget highlights
- Adds new positions to Wake EMS and the fire departments in the Fire Tax District to address rising 911 call volumes and staffing shortages;
- Increases clinic staffing in our regional centers. This will expand the services available to patients while improving efficiency and reducing transportation barriers to care;
- Adds more staff and software to address the increase in development in Wake County. This includes inspectors to review design plans, analysts to map properties and monitoring to ensure proper control measures for stormwater are in place;
- Funds early voting for the November election, as well as increasing pay for temporary Board of Elections administrative staff from $15/hour to $18/hour to attract skilled workers in this challenging labor market; and
- Restores Wake County Public Library hours cut in FY2021 due to the pandemic. The move would open libraries by 10 more hours per week, restoring the operating schedule.
Click here to read more detail about Wake County's budget
CITY OF RALEIGH BUDGET
Meanwhile, the City of Raleigh was working to approve its budget.
Raleigh says the impact of its property tax hike on the median home will mean an extra $51 a year.
The City's budget includes pay raises for first responders between three and five percent.
First responders are fighting for higher wages and they held a rally ahead of the City Council meeting.
Diane Ury was in attendance on behalf of her son-in-law, who is a firefighter
She says it's ridiculous what first responders are making and they should at least be earning the minimum wage to provide for their families.
"These people don't serve for the money. They serve because they're really good people and to be treated with so much disregard for their lives. It's embarrassing to me and we're going to look at them. It's a danger," said Ury.
The Raleigh Professional Fire Fighters Association says people are leaving the job for better pay elsewhere, there are more than 60 vacancies and service is being affected.
"Just this past Saturday, we have an engine company out-of-service for roughly an hour," said Raleigh Professional Fire Fighters Association Andy Davis. "Chiefs begging guys and girls that are off duty to come work overtime. We've had internal memos sent out that said 'you will be forced to work overtime if we don't have enough sign up.' so we are at a critical staffing crisis right now."
If Raleigh doesn't pass its budget Monday evening, it will likely vote on the measure next week.