It’s not one for one, it’s one for all

Published 9:32 am Tuesday, May 26, 2009

After a recent Northampton County Board of Commissioners meeting (which also included a budget work session) I overheard some citizens’ displeasure with the upcoming county budget.

To be quite honest, I was a little puzzled.

After all, County Manager Wayne Jenkins and Finance Officer Dot Vick had just presented to the commissioners in their second budget work session a balanced budget that spared citizens of a 13-cent tax hike.

A shortfall of $2.1 million was projected for the budget in the first work session held on May 8. Reasons for the shortfall included expenditures exceeding revenue as well as a 17 percent increase in employee health insurance.

According to county officials, that $2.1 million shortfall could have resulted in the tax rate being raised from the current 78 cents to 91 cents.

But, however, that is not the case with the readjusted budget presented on Monday.

Under the direction of the commissioners, Jenkins and Vick along with county department heads were able to tighten the belt, balancing the budget without the hefty tax increase. Not to mention, they did it without appropriation from the county fund balance which the county’s auditor has been vehement about restoring to a safe level.

Of course, there was a price to be paid.

Several county contributions were nixed in light of no tax increase and no fund balance appropriation, among them $75,000 cut from the county appropriation to Northampton County Schools, a complete cut of the Lake Gaston Weed Council’s $116,000 appropriation as well as eliminating or reducing several more appropriations.

County department budgets have also been reduced by three percent.

The possibility of furloughing county employees for five days is also in the budget, meaning the workers might have to take a cut in their salary because of mandatory unpaid leave.

As it seems, those citizens I overheard on Monday are a little oblivious to the times we are living in and, though the budget is yet to be approved, how close they came to a monstrous tax increase.

In response to the budget shortfall, Northampton County officials have taken steps to protect their constituents from feeling the brunt and instead did what all employers fear—limit work and resources for their employees.

This group of citizens needs to take notice of the sacrifices.

I would suggest the next time you’re in the county seat of Jackson, make the effort to shake the hand of a county employee. They are the ones quite possibly taking the burden of this budget and sparing your pocket.

Amanda VanDerBroek is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. For comments and column suggestions email: or call (252) 332-7209.