Lamb holds the line

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 8, 2006

WINDSOR – There will be no tax increase for Bertie County citizens.

For that matter, there will be no increase in any public service fees charged to Bertie residents.

That was the word here Monday night where Bertie County Manager Zee Lamb presented a proposed $18.1 million budget for 2006-07 to the Bertie Board of Commissioners.

Not only will the current 78-cent tax rate remain unchanged, Lamb’s proposal included a three-percent cost of living increase for county employees. Additionally, the Commissioners, upon their approval of the budget, will raise the minimum county salary for all full-time, permanent employees to $20,000 annually.

The budget proposal lists departmental hikes in the following areas:

Public Education n A 10 percent increase (to $2.26 million). Bertie County Public Schools will also receive $65,000 from landfill host fees; $375,000 for general capital outlay; over $212,000 in QZAB loan payments (for renovations to the county’s six public schools) and nearly $593,000 in payments for the new $18.5 million Bertie County Middle School. All totaled, the school system will benefit from $3.44 million as supplied by the county.

Sheriff’s Office n Including funds for five new vehicles, the budget affords a $371,000 hike (to $1.52 million).

Social Services n An increase of $318,000 (to $3.84 million). That includes an estimated $2.4 million needed to cover Bertie’s share of skyrocketing Medicaid costs.

Elections n An increase of 7.4 percent (to $97,594).

Bertie-Martin Regional Jail n The new budget proposes a hike of over $25,000 (to $688,243).

Recreation n As the county continues its goal to provide recreational activities for its citizens, complete with a new Recreation Center now under construction, this department will receive $171,276 as proposed in the 06-07 budget.

To pay for these county services, Lamb pointed to taxes on real and personal property as well as public utilities and vehicles in the amount of $7.33 million. This is based on a current year tax collection rate of 95 percent, the highest in Bertie County since 1985-86.

Other major revenue sources are sales tax ($2.8 million), sale of county water ($1.54 million) and solid waste host fees ($1.5 million).

Lamb informed the commissioners that the budget proposal reflects an $892,359 appropriation from the fund balance. He noted this amount exceeded the targeted amount of $700,000, but was necessary to help pay for increases in education and Medicaid.

“We will continue to seek increased revenues and find budgetary savings to reduce or eliminate the overage we experienced this year in fund balance appropriations,” Lamb said.

Lamb praised the work of Bertie Finance Officer Lydia Hoggard and others involved in helping to devise the 2006-07 budget.

A copy of the budget is now available for public viewing in the office of the Clerk to the Board of Commissioners. A public hearing concerning this proposed budget will be held at 7:20 p.m. on Monday, June 26 in the Commissioners Meeting Room. The commissioners may vote on the budget following that hearing.