Jenkins proposes budget

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 28, 2007

JACKSON – The proposal is on paper and it includes good news on several different fronts.

Yesterday (Monday), Northampton County Manager Wayne Jenkins – burning the “daytime” oil on Memorial Day – released his proposed county budget for 2007-08. The document calls for $22,976,923 in spending.

The budget is based on an ad valorem tax rate of 78 cents per $100 of value. That represents a 10-cent decrease of the county’s current 88-cent rate. However, the county is in its revaluation year, meaning property values are expected to rise.

The lion’s share of the spending will impact health programs ($3.99 million), Department of Social Services ($3.56 million), the county’s public school system ($3.39 million), Sheriff’s Office ($1.75 million), jail services ($1.095 million) and ambulance services ($1.091 million).

Jenkins said the Northampton Board of Commissioners made it extremely clear during the budget process that they wanted to see an increased emphasis placed on public safety.

In response, Jenkins added four new deputy sheriff positions and six new EMT/Paramedic positions. The latter will add a second, full-time EMT crew.

The proposed budget also adds two other new positions – a Planner/Assistant County Manager and a Land Use Field Inspector who will work in the Planning Department.

The proposal also calls for a two and one-half percent cost of living increase for all county employees. It also encompasses two major projects (1) construction of a dry, climate controlled central storage unit for county records; and (2) an upgrade to the county’s emergency communications system that will allow first responders to talk directly from their hand-held units to central dispatch. Jenkins said first responders now experience “dead spots” in various areas of the county.

Projected revenue will come primarily from ad valorem taxes ($14.07 million) and sales tax ($3.065 million). The balanced budget used a $349,740 appropriation from the county’s fund balance.

Jenkins said a public hearing on the proposed budget will be conducted during the June 4 commissioners meeting. A copy of the budget is available for public review from June 4 until June 18 at which time the commissioners are expected to adopt the spending/revenue plan, plus or minus any changes they deem necessary following the public hearing.