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Berlin’s real property tax rate set

Property owners will pay 12 cents more, based on new 80 cent per $100 structure

Berlin resident Tracy Albright addresses the Town of Berlin’s Mayor and Council Monday evening during a public hearing about the real property tax rate.

By Rachel Ravina, Staff Writer

(May 16, 2019) It’s going to cost 12 cents more per $100 of assessed value to own property in Berlin, after the Berlin Town Council on Monday adopted the real property tax rate for the fiscal year 2020 budget.

The rate was set at $.80 per $100 of assessed value after being introduced at an April 29 work session. Setting the new rate was a months- long process that included nearly a dozen public meetings and no small amount of debate for residents and council members.

Mayor Gee Williams said during last week’s work session that the rate for fiscal year 2021 is “to be determined.”

On a home assessed at $200,000, the new rate would work out to$1,640 a year or a $240 increase, Williams said last week. He added that it would cost $3,280 per year for homes assessed at $400,000, which is a $480 increase or $40 more per month.

As for the utility fees, the water fee will increase by 5 percent and the sewer fee will increase by 25 percent, according to reports.

“No doubt about [it], the wastewater rate has got to break even,” Councilman Troy Purnell said last week.

Williams allowed several community members to voice their concerns during a public hearing.

Resident Jeff Smith told members of the town’s mayor and council he was “impressed with the way [the] council handled [the] work session” last week.

However, he said he felt the outcome wasn’t ideal.

“I think at this point the compromise that you guys have reached is probably unacceptable to the majority of us, but we understand that at some point something has to be done, and you have a hard decision to make,” Smith said.

Fifty businesses cosigned a letter last month criticizing a proposed 29 percent rate increase to $.88 from the current $.68 levy. Homeowners and organizations also expressed their opposition to the tax hike.

For resident Tracy Albright, the rollback to 80 cents didn’t appear to be enough.

“You’ve got the coolest town. Well guess what? It’s not you guys that are doing it, it’s us,” she said.

“So if you have a town with homes and people that take care of it like we do, you’re going to turn around to us and you’re going to say we’re going to overtax you because we messed up,” she said. “We’re going to continue to tax you because we messed up.”

Conversely, resident Donald Fletcher said he understood the need for expansion and annexation in the area.

“The town has to grow,” Fletcher said. “If it doesn’t, we’re going to get stuck, simple as that.

After Williams closed the public hearing, Albright interjected from the audience on her way out.

“I’m sorry, one more thing before we go: Do better,” she said. “All of you do better.”

“Thank you for coming,” Williams replied.

Councilman Dean Burrell moved to approve the tax rate. The vote was 4-1 with Councilman Zack Tyndall dissenting.

“Listening to you [the townspeople] and voting ‘no’ to this unnecessary and unprecedented tax increase is my vote for a bright financial future for Berlin,” Tyndall said in a statement sent to the Bayside Gazette. “That future isn’t lost tonight, despite four of my colleagues voting to increase our taxes by [roughly 18 percent].”

Later in the meeting, Williams asked council members to consider several initiatives after the fiscal year 2021 budget was set. One of which was proposing to introduce the real property tax rate for fiscal year 2021’s in January, and plan to adopt it in March.

Town officials clarified the fiscal year 2021 budget would be introduced around mid-May as usually usually scheduled.