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HC begins 06-07 budget process

WINTON – Hertford County Manager Loria Williams asked the Board of Commissioners during their Jan. 3 meeting to begin thinking about the county’s 2006-07 budget preparation schedule.

Williams also revealed a fact that proved to be of great concern to Board Chairman Curtis A. Freeman and Commissioners DuPont Davis, Johnnie R. Farmer, John E. Pierce and Howard J. Hunter III.

“I’ll be upfront with you and tell you the audited financial statements for the fiscal year 2004-‘05 budget was not received until Friday,” Williams said. “It was received in draft form. Under normal circumstances, the contract calls for it to be completed in October and there are instances where it may miss a deadline but, not by this much time.”

Williams added that she has made several phone calls to the firm of Catalfamo & Associates of Moyock to advise them of her grave concern over the situation.

Hertford County Finance Director Robin Stephenson said the auditing firm has served the county since 1999 and this year marks the third in which they have failed to produce documents by deadline.

Commissioner Davis asked Williams if the audit firm is aware the county will be changing auditors, to which the county manager responded with a firm “yes.”

Continuing their discussion of the budget, Williams said she would like to have some direction on where the commissioners see the financial future of the county. She said she’s especially interested in whether they want to hold to the current tax rate and whether to hold the county’s fund balance where it is.

Williams noted to the board that three budget work sessions were scheduled for last year and she asked them to begin thinking of how they wanted to work the sessions this year.

“I would like to have the annual budget/goal setting work session on Feb. 6 if possible,” she said. “And you will need to let me know how many work sessions you will need.”

Williams said budget materials were distributed to all county government departments on Jan. 4. A senior management monthly meeting has been scheduled for Jan. 11, Feb. 8, March 8 and a final one on May 10. Quarterly reports are due in the manager’s office by Jan. 17 and April 17.

Beginning March 13, Administration and Finance begins working individually with departments on an as needed basis. From April 4 to 17, department heads will review budget requests and on April 21 the manager’s final budget cuts are due in the finance office.

Finally, on May 1, the Fiscal Year 2006-07 Budget will be presented to the County Board of Commissioners prior to a public hearing on the budget. A date has not been set for a meeting in which citizens of Hertford County may comment on the budget.

Williams said June 19, has been set as the date the Board of Commissioners will adopt the budget and Capital Improvement Plan.

In another matter before the board, Williams advised that an upset bid of $3,200 had come in against a $1,000 bid on foreclosed property located at 12 Chet Rogerson Rd. in the St. John’s Township.

Williams told the commissioners that Nicole Vinson had made the larger bid, with a $160 deposit (based on five percent of her bid).

Chairman Freeman also noted that the low bidder, Diane Brown, had expressed some displeasure at her bid being upset, although she was satisfied with the process Hertford County uses for the sale of foreclosed property. He added the property has been sitting on Hertford County’s books for some time.

“We are not in the business of real estate,” said Freeman.

Williams explained that an upset bid must be at least five percent more than the previous bid according to State Statute. She also noted that it must be advertised at a cost of at least what the county has in it; i.e. back taxes and legal fees.

Each offer on any piece of foreclosed property is brought before the Hertford County Board of Commissioners and they voted unanimously to approve the sale to Vinson.