Northampton Commissioners approve budget

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 29, 2004

JACKSON – Following a public hearing here Monday morning, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners approved a $18,668,805 budget for the 2004-2005 year.

According to Northampton County Manager Wayne Jenkins, who presented the line item budget, the new budget was formulated with the goal of maintaining the current Ad Valorem Tax Rate of .88 cents per $100 of value, keeping the county’s undesignated fund balance at a fiscally responsible level and sustaining county operations and services at an effective level.

The tax rate, which is based on an estimated total valuation of property for the purpose of taxation of $1,028,852,202, reflects an increase of $581,577 over the ’03-04 budget and affords county employees a one percent cost of living increase scheduled to take effect July 1.

&uot;It’s really a three to four percent rate increase when you look at it,&uot; stated Vice Chair Robert Carter who explained that the county was in fact absorbing an insurance hike for its employees.

&uot;With the county absorbing the increased cost of insurance, the employees will actually see more money in their paycheck rather than having to pay out the extra expense for the hike in insurance rates,&uot; he said.

The budget provides a two-cent increase in mileage rates from .34 cents to .36 cents and funds for critical outlay at $45,000, which will be restricted until December.

The budget also satisfies the county’s debt liquidation schedule of $583,641, of which $480,753 is allocated for schools and $102,888 for USDA Multi-Needs and funds a Human Resources Department employee for a full 12-month year, while unfreezing two approved positions in the Health Department.

With regard to levies on volunteer fire districts, a .04 cent tax per $100 of value of real and personal properties located within the boundaries Fire Service Districts of the Roanoke Wildwood Volunteer Fire Department and the Jackson Volunteer Fire Department will be assessed while a .05 cent per $100 of value will be added within the boundaries of Fire Service Districts of the Rich Square, Gaston, Lasker and Garysburg fire departments.

Tax dollars levied for the two Roanoke Wildwood Volunteer Fire Department Service Districts and the Volunteer Fire Department Service District of Jackson, Rich Square, Lasker and Garysburg will be passed directly to the Volunteer Fire Departments on a monthly basis.

The budget also recognizes the newly established Lake Gaston Watershed Improvement District, but does not authorize a tax levy.

Although the budget does not increase the tax burden on citizens, it does require a transfer of $1,611,435 from the undesignated fund balance.

Leading the way in departmental expenditures is the Department of Health and Human Services with a combined total of $7,022,791, Public Safety with $3,831,484, Education with $3,785,500 (same as last year) and General Government with $2,391,580 (down from the previous year).

Of the total amount allotted to Northampton County School System, $445,000 is allocated to Capital Outlay with $140,000 coming from fines and forfeitures.

Other selected expenditures by department were Economic/Physical Development ($437,036), Cultural and Recreation ($206,050) and Environmental Protection ($158,128).

To pay for these services, Northampton County will generate the majority of its revenue through ad valorem taxes ($10,248,065) along with a combined $2,156,468 in sales taxes.

Another $1,113,950 will come from Health Federal/State Restrictions with $1,281,123 in Health sales and $1,250,000 coming from the fund balance.

Ongoing capital projects include Phase IV of the Northampton County Water System, the Northampton/Lincoln Park Sewer District Project and the Community Development Block Grant Scattered Site Housing Project, which will expend a total of $7,342,417 when complete.

&uot;As we all know, the Department Heads, Finance Officer and Commissioners have put many hours of hard work into preparing and balancing this budget,&uot; said Jenkins as he continued.

&uot;The keen need of balances of the provision of services to our citizens, the continuing hard economic times that we are facing, the need to sustain an affordable tax rate, a commitment to the hard working and deserving employees of this great county, continued support for education and out public school system, the many required state and federal mandates for health and social programs as well as the absolutely necessity to maintain a fiscally responsible and stable financial fund balance are only a few of the many challenges, obstacles and considerations that we all faced.&uot;

Jenkins commended each of the Commissioners and Department Heads for their leadership in the many accomplishments of the county during this past year and stated, &uot;As of today, the county has operated for FY 30-04 on a true balanced budget,&uot; adding that of the $2 million that had been appropriated from the undesignated fund balance, the county had not expended any funds to date.

&uot;Ladies and gentlemen, this is truly an accomplishment,&uot; he said.

Although the budget only has the capability of addressing un-programmed expenditures through a draw down on the Contingency Account or reprogramming of funds from other budgeted line items, Chief Finance Officer Dot Vick stated that she didn’t have a problem with any of the budgeted items and felt comfortable with the decision.

Expressing his appreciation for the efforts put forth by the County Manager and Finance Officer, Carter stated, &uot;I think you have done an excellent job of balancing the budget.&uot;

Echoing his sentiments, Commissioner Jennings White stated, &uot;I commend you for doing a great job. We’re very pleased with the budget.&uot;

Commissioners James Boone and Fannie Green were not able to attend the meeting, but gave written consent for the approval of the 04-05 budget.

&uot;I strongly believe good government begins with effective communication and cooperation of the department heads and staff,&uot; said Jenkins, thanking the department heads and Commissioners for their leadership, confidence and support. He also extended a special word of thanks to Vick for her hard work.

At the close of the meeting, Chairwoman Virginia Spruill presented Vick with a plaque to honor her for her hard work in maintaining a &uot;fiscally sound&uot; budget and thanked her on behalf of the county for taking on the responsibility of managing the county’s finances stating, &uot;We wouldn’t know what to do without her.&uot;

A copy of the county budget is available, upon request, through the County Manager’s Office.