Hurricane Florence contributes to tax lag

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New Hanover revenues behind schedule; partly because of storm

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Hurricane Florence had yet another impact, as New Hanover County potentially saw decreased tax revenue at least partly because of the storm.

“I usually like to tell you that revenues are where we expect,” Lisa Wurtzbacher, chief financial officer for the county, said at Tuesday’s board of county commissioners meeting.

The county had received $24.7 million, or 8.3 percent of its total budgeted revenue, during the first quarter of the 2018-19 fiscal year, or July 1 through Sept. 30. Hurricane Florence made landfall in New Hanover County on Sept. 13 and stalled over the Wilmington, dropping historic rain on the region and causing catastrophic damage.

Last year at the same time, the county had collected $27.5 million, or 9.4 percent of its total revenues.

Wurtzbacher said that, while some revenues had trended lower, the storm contributed to the lag, including with county offices closed for weeks as Hurricane Florence approached and roared over the region, meaning people couldn’t bring tax payments to the county tax office before Sept. 30.

“That certainly had an impact,” she said.

During the same time, the county had spent $57.7 million, or 19.5 percent of the county’s total budget.

And the spending for the storm may not be over, as Wurtzbacher said staff planned to ask the commissioners for additional funds to respond to the storm “primarily around debris that exceeded what we initially thought it would be.”

County Manager Chris Coudriet said the county has picked up 1.2 million cubic yards in vegetative and construction debris from the storm. Original estimates pegged the total amount of vegetative debris at 800,000 cubic yards.

Tuesday was the last full board meeting for Vice Chairman Skip Watkins, who lost his re-election bid, coming in third out of four candidates seeking two, four-year spots on the board.

“I enjoyed four years. I appreciate my supporters and my prayers are with the citizens of New Hanover County,” Watkins said.

Incumbent Democrat Rob Zapple was re-elected and former state senator and county commissioner Julia Olson-Boseman, also a Democrat, was also elected last week. They will be sworn into their terms at the board’s Dec. 3 meeting.

Board Chairman Woody White congratulated Zapple and Olson-Boseman on their election wins.

“I look forward to having (Olson-Boseman) join us at our next meeting,” said White, a Republican.

Their election, along with the continued term of Commissioner Jonathan Barfield, gives the board of commissioners a Democratic majority for the first time since 1991.

Reporter Tim Buckland can be reached at 910-343-2217 or