Commissioners face tough decisions

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 1, 2004

JACKSON – Tough decisions don’t come easy.

After hearing an analysis of its financial status from auditor Brian Starnes of Martin Starnes & Associates, Northampton County Commissioners adopted the recommendation of a Budget Formulation Guidance submitted by County Manager Wayne Jenkins.

In light of the presentation, which reflected the need for conservative fiscal action by the board, Commissioners prudently agreed to provisions, barring a cost of living increase and the addition of any new positions.

They agreed to maintain the current compensation for mileage with no increase in rates, a zero percent increase in expenditures and no increase in salary for cost of living operating on critical capital outlay only, which would include utilizing existing equipment or buildings to maintain the level of service required for daily operation.

&uot;I don’t like standing in front of you asking you to withhold cost of living increases, new positions and the like because our employees are very special,&uot; said Jenkins, &uot;but these decisions are critical.&uot;

Chairwoman Virginia Spruill commented, &uot;We have the caliper of employees that other counties covet and we admire them. We may have some hard decisions ahead of us, but there’s still brighter days ahead for Northampton County.&uot;

Jenkins explained that although the county previously suffered the blow of losing employees to other counties able to offer more lucrative salaries after paying to train them, it is now able to compete with salaries that are equal to or greater in comparison.

He added that he may return to the board with a petition to increase the salaries at &uot;a more appropriate time,&uot; but for now this course of action was necessary.

&uot;I know this is difficult,&uot; said Jenkins as he addressed the Commissioners, &uot;but you have recognized your employees when they have achieved and I commend you for that.&uot;

Commissioner James Boone offered up the admonition that the government allows taxpayers a write off for the difference they do not receive with regard to cost of living increase.

In addition, the board agreed to maintain the current expense and capital outlay for Northampton County Schools in the amount of $3,625,500, the same as FY 2003-2004.

Other actions taken by the board included the approval of a closeout public hearing regarding the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for Monday, March 15, the purchase of two new vehicles for the Health Department, the remounting of a 1999 ambulance for Emergency Services and a continuation of funding for the North Carolina Department of Corrections Day Reporting Center consistent with figures for the past three years.

The board also approved an amendment to the Infrastructure Hook-up Program to increase the maximum funding assistance allowance for water from $1,000 to $2,000.

Jenkins noted that the county would not be responsible for payment on any of the items decided on in the meeting until the close of the fiscal year approximately three months from now.

A story regarding the Northampton audit/ mid-year review will be printed in an upcoming edition.