SMITHFIELD — Johnston County’s total tax levy has grown by more than $900,000 despite a cut in the property tax rate.
That was one takeaway from the tax office’s monthly report to County Commissioners on Sept. 5.
Commissioner Fred Smith wanted to make sure he had interpreted the report correctly. “I always like to be sure I catch the ball you’re throwing,” he told tax administrator Jocelyn Andrews. “Our levy in this county has gone up between $900,000 and $1 million from the same time last year?”
Yes, Andrews said. “And that is with y’all reducing the tax rate,” she said.
“I think that’s important,” Smith said.
For their 2023-24 budget, commissioners lowered Johnston County’s property tax rate from 73 to 69 cents.
“This board did reduce the tax rate by 4 cents per $100 of valuation, and the levy was still starting out higher for the year,” Andrews said. “That shows the growth of this county.”
It also shows that commissioners are mindful of taxpayers, Smith said. “We care about the taxpayer, and we care about what they have to pay and are trying to be good stewards of their money,” he said.
Lower tax bills caught some Johnstonians off-guard, Andrews said. “When the bills went out, we got a lot of phone calls going, ‘Hang on, am I seeing this right?’ ” she said.
Her answer: “Yes. The commissioners did reduce the tax rate, and this is what your bill is. Your value hasn’t changed.”
“We did have a number of people who would call and question that because they thought we had gotten the bill wrong,” Andrews said.
Commissioner Ted Godwin has been skeptical of Johnston’s rapid residential growth, but he acknowledged the benefit in terms of tax revenue. “Commissioner Smith, you led the way on that effort to drop it 4 cents, and it looks like the growth has covered us fine,” he said. “We’re in good shape.”
Commissioner Tony Braswell said 4 cents appeared just right. Any more would have been too much; any less would have produced too big a cash cushion.
“It looks like we were pretty well on the money in figuring out what we needed to reduce the tax,” Braswell said. “And I think this is a good goalpost for us to look at every year.”