Editorial: Wendell may need to bite the bullet

May 2, 2013 

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it dozens of times. We appreciate Wendell leaders’ desire not to raise property taxes. It’s a bill no one wants to pay. It’s a bill town leaders would rather not inflict upon the residents they serve.

Sometimes, though, we have to make unpopular decisions because they are the right decisions.

In their first budget work session of this fiscal year, town commissioners agreed they don’t want to raise taxes and they agreed they don’t want to cut services.

As the cost of services rises, however, it’s hard to see how the town can have it both ways.

Among the suggestions put forth at last week’s meeting were these ideas:

•  Incentivize early retirement. We’re sure that would be great for employee morale

•  Put off the purchase of new police cars. That solution merely kicks the can down the road

Mayor Tim Hinnant argued that the town can not tax its way out of a projected budget deficit.

As large as that projected deficit is, Hinnant’s right, to a point.

But commissioners would be burying their heads in the sand if they don’t at least consider how to combine all the tools at their disposal to help minimize the disruption of town services and the maintainance of town assets.

A quick look around the region shows the town of Zebulon considering a 3-cent property tax increase. In Knightdale, rate payers will see a 2-cent increase.

If Wendell were to bump its tax rate by 3 cents, it would generate $132,000, nearly all the money the town needs to maintain its police car fleet on a proper schedule.

How much would that dig in to Wendell property owners’ pockets? A 3-cent increase in the tax rate would mean just $45 for the owner of a home valued at $150,000, which is pretty standard for Wendell. That’s about the cost of one night’s meal at a restaurant for a family of four.

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