Orange County Commissioner Mark Marcoplos told the INDY Thursday that he’ll ask his colleagues to raises taxes to fund projects aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change.
The property tax hike he’s proposing for the county’s 2019–20 budget—which commissioners will vote on June 18—isn’t likely to cause sticker shock: It’s only a quarter-cent increase for every $100 in assessed value, or about $5 a year for a $200,000 property. (Orange County’s current millage rate, 85 cents per $100 of value, is higher than those of Durham and Wake Counties—78 cents and 65 cents, respectively—though that comparison does not include taxes imposed by municipalities.)
But while it will be “palatable, modest, and defensible,” Marcoplos says, “it will also generate “significant funds”—$469,272 a year.
“The reason we need it is because we’re facing a planetary crisis and everyone—every individual, every community, every government—needs to step up at this time and make a real contribution to the situation,” he says. “We’ve got ten or twelve years to make a significant change in our impact on the climate.”
A United Nations report released in March found that world leaders had just eleven years to avert “irreversible damage” to the planet from climate change. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent over the next decade and eliminate them by 2050.
Under his plan, that money could be directed toward improving green infrastructure and increasing green energy in new buildings; placing rooftop solar panels on county facilities; renewable energy reports; creating a weatherization program for low-income families; and hiring experts to assess existing buildings and make repairs to save energy, among others.
These projects, Marcoplos says, will produce ripple effects such as job creation, health benefits, and lower energy costs for consumers.
Should the Board of Commissioners go along with Marcoplos’s proposal, it wouldn’t be the county’s first foray into advancing green energy. Last year, Marcoplos points out, the board created a policy under which every capital project has to have a large solar component.
But it would be the county’s most aggressive move—and Marcoplos says he hopes that it sets an example for others to follow.
“Of equal importance to the actual impact of the spending is the inspiration it could provide to other jurisdictions,” he says. “It also represents the fact that we will have to make sacrifices as we address this existential crisis.”
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What a great opportunity for Orange County to lead by example. It is very nice to see forward thinking local officials taking such action. A small tax increase could open the door for considerable innovation and green infrastructure creation during a period of development for our county. New jobs, new renewable energy opportunities, more livable, walkable, and green towns and cities.
I fully support this idea.
It would be wonderful if little old Hillsborough could make a change like that. If you’re going to raise the taxes, please come up with a better excuse
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