As you may have heard, it’s budget season! From now through June, our local governments will be considering funding priorities and gathering input from the community to inform the budget for next fiscal year. Public budgets are the guiding document for how taxpayer dollars are spent. They reflect a community’s values and investment priorities.
Local budgets must first provide critical services to residents, such as water and sewer infrastructure, trash collection, and public safety. Additional revenues can be allocated to other types of programs like arts and cultural resources.
Property tax revenue is the single largest and most stable source of revenue for local governments. Other revenue sources include local fees and taxes. Unlike the federal government, local governments cannot have a budget deficit. This means that every dollar must be carefully budgeted with little flexibility.
.Local governments are cycling through their budget process all year long, but the process accelerates around March towards the end of the fiscal year. In April, County staff will prepare the recommended budget. Staff will also finalize revenue estimates, which often increase with growth. In May, the County Manager presents the recommended Operating Budget & Capital Improvement Plan. County Commissioners will hold public hearings to receive feedback from community members and stakeholders. In June, the final budget is adopted by the Wake County Commission. Both Wake County and the City of Raleigh operate on a July-June fiscal year, meaning their budgets restart on July 1.
Here’s what’s to come for the Wake County Budget process:
Affordable housing and the budget
Local governments are key players in solving the affordable housing crisis – yet less than 3% of local funding is allocated to housing in local budgets.
As the cost of housing continues to rise, it is critical that our local governments prioritize funding affordable housing. Affordable housing programs that are regularly funded in the budget include the development and preservation of affordable units, shelters and rapid rehousing, community revitalization and rehabilitation, rental assistance, and more. But, there is still a net loss of 900 affordable housing units in Wake County every year. Without significant government intervention, the affordable housing shortage in Wake County could be as high as 150,000 units by 2035. Appropriations for affordable housing in local budgets are therefore critical to ensuring that residents in Wake are safely and affordably housed.
Property tax relief as a key priority
As housing costs and land values skyrocket, so do property taxes. The countywide average increase between 2016-2020 was 24 percent. However, homeowners in the predominantly Black neighborhoods of South and Southeast Raleigh are experiencing the most dramatic increases in property taxes between 25 to 151 percent.
To prevent the displacement of long-time homeowners with low incomes, we are advocating for a countywide homeowner assistance fund. Financial assistance would help balance the burden of increased property taxes to keep homeowners safely housed and able to pass their home down to the next generation.