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Williams ‘holds line’ on budget

WINTON – Hold the line.

That message has been preached to Hertford County Manager Loria D. Williams by county commissioners since she was hired.

For the second consecutive year, Williams has managed to do just that.

On Monday, Williams presented her message for the Hertford County budget for fiscal year 2008-2009. That message included an important tenant: no tax increase. The tax rate will remain at 91 cents per $100 of valuation.

Williams said it was a difficult budget to prepare and reported that to fund all agencies at their requested levels would have required a tax rate of $1.03.

The overall budget decreased two percent from the current year budget and totals $22,704,570. It is formed on an estimated valuation of $1,175,239,944 and a collection rate of 95 percent.

“The proposed budget holds increases in expenditures within departments to a minimum, with most increases being related to ‘fixed’ costs such as salaries, utilities, higher fuel, etc.,” Williams told the board.

The highlights of the proposed budget include;

* Personnel n the budget supports 217 full-time employees and provides a three percent cost of living adjustment. In addition, for such a tenured and experienced workforce, there is a recommendation of longevity pay;

* Insurances n a more conscience workforce in matters of safety resulted in a modest increase to General Liability and a reduction in Worker’s Compensation;

* Other Agencies n A three percent increase in funding is recommended for Hertford County Public Schools, Roanoke-Chowan Community College and the Public Health Authority;

* Expansion Items n The budget includes five vehicles for the office of the Hertford County Sheriff, a new Quick Response Vehicle for EMS, and one truck each for the Code Enforcement and Public Buildings departments. There is also a CTV/Door Lock system for the jail.

“Growth in the tax base or the lack thereof will continue to restrict governmental operations as the demand for services becomes greater,” Williams said. “The next three years (prior to revaluation) will test our ability to continue to do more with less.

“County office buildings, major mechanical systems and the maintenance thereof is reaching a critical juncture,” she told the board. “Hertford County has very little debt and has exercised the pay-as-you-go method; however, I will be seeking guidance from you in creating a viable capital improvements plan.”

There will be a slight increase in solid waste fees due to the contractual obligations to the private landfill in Bertie County. Because of those changes, the budget recommends an increase in the household fee from $110 to $115, as well as the commercial tipping fee from $50 to $55 annually.

There is no scheduled increase in the water fund.

The Hertford County Commissioners thanked Williams for holding the tax rate and began discussions about budget work sessions.