No tax hike in Hertford

Published 2:25 pm Tuesday, May 5, 2009

WINTON – Despite a spike in economic uncertainty, Hertford County will not pass along a tax increase.

That was the message sent yesterday (Monday) by Hertford County Manager Loria Williams as she pitched her 2009-10 budget proposal to the county’s board of commissioners.

In that message, Williams said she, at the urging of the commissioners, was not proposing a tax increase, a rate that will remain at 91 cents (per $100 of property value).

The proposed 09-10 general fund budget is $21.4 million, reflecting a six percent decrease from the current year’s financial spreadsheet. Despite that decrease, Williams’ proposal provides current level funding to key agencies such as the public school system, Roanoke-Chowan Community College, the Public Health Authority and the county’s fire departments.

“This wasn’t an easy budget, especially when you take into consideration that we have to continue to fund all state and federal mandates and provide adequate services to our citizens during an economic downturn that is being compared to the Great Depression,” Williams said.

Williams praised the efforts of the county’s departmental heads, saying she had asked each to trim five percent off their original budgets.

“This budget is tight, very, very tight,” she remarked. “The across the board reductions create the potential for overspending because there is little or no room for unanticipated costs. We need to become very disciplined and work that much harder to keep spending aligned with these reduced departmental budgets.”

Despite losing three different pots of state and local sales tax revenue in a swap for the state taking over the county’s share of Medicaid payments, Williams was able to offset a potential property tax hike. The total loss to the county’s revenue stream is projected at $1.35 million. However, the state’s takeover of Medicaid saves Hertford County $1.45 million.

Meanwhile, the county absorbed revenue losses in sales tax (down a projected $1.1 million from last year), permits and fees ($43,000) and interest income ($153,000).

“We’re still holding our breath on what the state may do as they’re facing a $3.2 billion shortfall for the rest of this year alone,” Williams noted. “The governor has the constitutional right to tap into any funds to balance the budget. Where does that leave us, especially with the restricted inter-departmental funds, we don’t know right now.”

The commissioners approved holding a public hearing on the county’s 2009-10 budget at 7 p.m. on Monday, June 1.