New budget sees no property tax increases

Public hearing to be held June 17

RAEFORD — It’s looking like good news for Hoke County residents based on budget discussions at the Hoke County Board of Commissioners meeting on Monday, June 3.

The board was presented with the recommended budget for fiscal year 2024-25, a balanced budget of $73.5 million, with no recommended property tax rate increase for the upcoming fiscal year.

“One of the things to take pride in is no tax increase,” said Chairman James Leach. “We work very hard each year not to raise our taxes so our seniors have a decent place to live and be able to afford their homes, but we were also able to give to education more money, and also looking to give more money to public safety. We have to educate our folks and we have to keep them safe so giving to those plus other departments, without a tax increase, I think that’s super.”

The board will hold a public hearing on the budget on June 17.

“When you come home to Hoke County and we have a surplus and we have a balanced budget and we got no tax increase, you’ve just got to give kudos to your county manager and the work that she’s doing,” said Vice Chair Harry Southerland.

In other business, the board approved a special use permit request for 11 acres at 469 Pittman Grove Church Road to build a self-storage site.

It denied a rezoning request, by a vote of 3-1, that would have seen 292 Grenada Road changed from RA-20 to Neighborhood Business (NB).

During the public comment period, concerns were raised over the anticipated impact on the local neighbors of a business running out of the neighborhood.

“I’m probably, just like the rest of the board members here, pro-business,” Southerland said. “I’m pro small business and I think small businesses are the heartbeat of the American economy, but there’s a place and a location for business. I believe that this is a private residential area with a private residential road and if we change it to Neighborhood Business, it would change the character of that community. I don’t want to change the use and enjoyment of these people’s homes just to put one business that would later be followed by some other businesses. I think it has to be in its right place but I don’t think this area is the right place in my opinion for a neighborhood business.”

The lone dissenter was Commissioner Allen Thomas, who viewed a lot of the complaints aimed less at the overall business concerns and more so on the concerns over the applicant themselves.

“We should be talking specifically about the business’ impact on the neighborhood,” Thomas said. “But what we’re getting is a convoluted description on what exactly is the problem. Is it the business that’s the problem or do you simply not like these folks who live in your neighborhood?”

In other business, the board approved three changes to the Health Department fee schedule, including an environmental health service fee, a behavioral health service fee and a clinical service fee.

“The Environmental Health Department has realized over the past couple of years that people are doing expansions to their homes and the expansion in bedrooms changes the septic systems,” said Health Director Helene Edwards. “There’s no service fee currently for that additional bedroom which would cause changes to the septic system with fill lines or having to have a whole other system be developed.”

In response, the Board of Health recommended a $200 inspection fee for expansion of total bedrooms in homes.

The behavioral health fees are updates for services provided by a licensed clinical social worker and range from $30 to $300, and the clinical service fee is an update for the cost for the administration of vaccines, ranging from $40 to $300.

The Hoke County Board of Commissioners will next meet June 17.