Williams proposes tax hike

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 2, 2006

WINTON – If approved, the proposed 2006-07 budget for Hertford County will include a two-cent hike in property taxes.

County Manager Loria Williams presented the proposed 2006-2007 fiscal year budget to the Hertford County Board of Commissioners during Monday’s meeting.

“This is a working document,” Williams stressed. “This recommendation reflects what I and the county administrative staff believe is necessary to meets the needs of the citizenry of Hertford County.”

The proposed budget totals $22,805,544 with a proposed tax rate of $.93 per $100 of valuation. The current tax rate is $.91. That ranks Hertford County number one in the Roanoke-Chowan area in property tax rates. Bertie ($.78), Gates ($.87) and Northampton ($.88) all have lower rates.

Williams outlined the proposed budget and highlighted revenue and expenditures.

“I reviewed actual departmental spending for the previous three years to determine existing trends in over/under spending and compensated for the same,” Williams said. “I met with each department head individually to discuss proposed budget requests.”

Williams and her staff restructured the budget to streamline the process and county departments which had separate budgets, like the Department of Social Services, were placed into the general fund for the 2006-2007 fiscal year.

Williams also noted the county’s fund balance continues to increase, even though there was a minimal increase in the county’s tax base, approximately one percent.

“General liability, workers’ compensation and health insurance increases were unprecedented this planning year,” Williams said. “State Medicaid projection for this year is an estimated $2,522,913 and the current funding level is $2,050,000.

“If they (Hertford County citizens) are eligible we must provide this service (Medicaid),” Williams added.

Williams pointed out the strain on the county’s budget rising fuel costs are causing and how county administrators across the state are struggling with this factor.

“Department heads worked very hard on this (budget),” Williams said. “There are a lot of requests that have merit, but we can’t fund them all.”

Williams and the board discussed the Northern and Southern Water Districts and how both funds have experienced operational losses over the past few years. The proposed budget reflects a user fee adjustment to compensate for the losses.

Williams also noted budget reductions in several departments, saving the county $335,042 from the previous year’s budget.

According to the county manager’s presentation, spending on human services, education and public safety continue to lead all other categories of spending in the budget. However, human services funds are offset by federal and state revenues.

The board will hold a meeting on May 3 at 3:30 p.m. and a public comment period during the June 5 meeting at 7:30 p.m. to discuss the proposed budget.

In other business, the board questioned Mike Barnette of McDavid and Associates (contracted by the Mid-East Commission) about the progress of the Community Development Block Grant scattered site program.

Commissioner DuPont Davis questioned Barnette concerning potential contractors for the sites. Barnette stated in a letter to the county manager that “any bidder (contractor) must have a general contractor’s license to bid, contract or work on any scope of work to be completed by a licensed subcontractor.

“There is nothing in the statutes that support this,” County Building Inspector Paul Vaughan said.

“This statement wasn’t accurate,” Bryant Buck of the Mid-East Commission said. “There is no documentation to back this up. As long as the (contract) is under $30,000 they do not need to be a licensed contractor.”

Barnette admitted he had no documentation to prove this license is required to perform work estimated at under $30,000, but was going on the word of Mike Brown, the eastern regional field investigator for the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors.

“There seems to be some miscommunication in your office,” Davis said.

The board agreed to table the issue so the county could continue to accept bids on the projects based on the new information.

Davis stressed the need to complete the projects as soon as possible because the people living in these residences are low-wealth and their homes are in desperate need of being repaired or replaced.