HC tax rate unchanged

Published 10:05 am Thursday, June 18, 2009

WINTON – Despite a shaky economy with an unknown future, the Hertford County Commissioners sent a message in May that they would prefer a 2009-10 local operating budget without having to pass along a tax increase to the citizens.

Hertford County Manager Loria Williams honored that request.

On Monday night, the commissioners approved a $21.38 million budget for the new fiscal year, one that begins July 1. The ad valorem (property) tax rate that provides the lion’s share of the revenue for the budget remained at 91 cents (per $100 of valuation).

Commissioner Johnnie Ray Farmer, the board’s vice-chairman, praised Williams and her staff for a job well done on the budget. Farmer also addressed the current property tax collection rate (95 percent), calling it the best he has seen since joining the board over eight years ago.

“The department heads worked hard on this budget, everybody pitched in,” Williams noted.

Echoing Farmer’s comments, Commissioner Curtis Freeman went a bit further by suggesting that the board needs to consider a way to honor the county employees for all their hard work that helped prepare a budget without a tax increase.

“We give Mrs. Williams these accolades face-to-face, we need to do the same for all the staff,” Freeman said. “I’d like to see us consider hosting a brunch in honor of our county employees.”

The 2009-10 budget, approved by a unanimous vote following a motion from Commissioner DuPont Davis, is over $1 million less than the one approved a year ago.

As is typical in any local budget, Human Services, Public Safety and Education lead the way in appropriations.

In Hertford County’s case, Human Services will operate using nearly one-third of the General Fund. Highlighted by $3.28 million going to DSS Administration and $1.35 million for DSS Public Assistance, Human Services received a total of $6.55 million in operating funds.

Public Safety was awarded $5.15 million for the new fiscal year. The majority of that funding will be used by the Jail ($1.73 million), the Sheriff’s Office ($1.60 million) and Emergency Medical Services ($971,681).

Led by $4.17 million to the public schools current expense fund, Education was budgeted at $5.08 million. Roanoke-Chowan Community College received $758,839 from Hertford County. In separate funding, the local school system received $875,000 in capital outlay money.

Property taxes ($9.47 million) will foot nearly one-half the bill to pay for county-provided services. Other major revenue sources include restricted intergovernmental funds ($4.82 million), sales and use taxes ($3.35 million), vehicle taxes ($1.37 million) and sales and services ($1.01 million).

Williams said $683,096 was taken from the county’s fund balance to use in the 2009-10 budget. Earlier in Monday’s meeting, she noted that fund balance appropriation may have been higher had it not been for cost-saving measures implemented by the commissioners late last year.

“We came out of the current budget year better than expected,” Williams said. “That was due in large part by two things – one, the spending freeze you (commissioners) put in place last year; two, the wonderful job Wilda (Liverman, Hertford County’s Tax Collector) and her staff did in collecting what was owed to the county.”

All totaled, Williams said those efforts saved the county nearly one million dollars. However, as she pointed out, that money was used to fill shortfalls in current sales tax revenue and in Public Safety.