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Bertie tax rate unchanged

WINDSOR – For the seventh year in a row, there will be no property tax increase in Bertie County, provided the proposed budget for fiscal year (FY) 2008-2009 passes.

County Manager Zee Lamb presented the budget message to the Bertie County Commissioners here during Monday morning’s regular meeting.

&uot;It’s a very lean budget, only one percent more than last year’s original budget,&uot; Lamb stated.

He continued, &uot;In order to afford taxpayers a no tax increase, some things have been cut that were requested, but I believe it’s a good, fair budget.&uot;

The tax rate in Bertie County has not gone up since 2001, and this year the proposal is for it to remain at $0.78 per $100 property valuation.

The proposed budget also calls for no increases in water fees or inspection rates.

Also for the seventh straight year, the property tax collection rate has increased, now standing at 95.56 percent, the highest since FY 1985-1986.

The tax collection rate hit an all-time low in FY 1999-2000 when it was just 88.59 percent.

Included in the proposed $19.5 million budget is an increase over last year of 10 percent for the school system, to total $2.75 million.

In keeping with the last three years’ worth of 10 percent increases, this year’s $250,000 increase in funding for the school system is being called the largest in Bertie County history.

&uot;I’ve never heard of any county having a 10 percent increase three years in a row… this represents the entire request made by the Board of Education,&uot; Lamb noted.

Chairman of the Commissioners Norman Cherry remarked, &uot;Which means we gave them everything they asked for.&uot;

Lamb continued, &uot;It’s clear that this board has been very supportive of public education, and any statement made by anyone to the contrary is completely dishonest… you all have done great things to support the school system.&uot;

The Bertie County Sheriff’s Department also received an increase in funding in the proposed budget, with an additional $129,000 going to that department, including funds for five new vehicles.

Spending for Social Services is projected to be down for this fiscal year, with a decrease of $364,000, largely due to the county’s share of the Medicaid burden being phased out by the state.

Lamb estimated that up to $992,000 may be appropriated from the county’s fund balance in the upcoming fiscal year.

Currently, the fund balance stands at $5.6 million, well above the state’s recommended percentage.

Cherry thanked Lamb and his staff for their hard work on the budget.

Lamb, in turn, thanked Finance Officer Lydia Hoggard and her staff for their invaluable assistance.

Cherry further remarked, &uot;When you can present the budget without a tax increase while increasing funding to the schools, it shows you’re managing money quite well.&uot;

Addressing the commissioners, Lamb added, &uot;To be able to go seven years without raising taxes, I don’t think that has ever been done in this county.

You all should be proud (of that), especially during these recession-era times.&uot;

A public hearing in which Bertie County citizens can comment on the proposed budget has been set for the next commissioner’s meeting, on June 24 at 7 p.m.