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Northampton approves budget

JACKSON — Leaving a decision on the budget to the last minute seems to have best for the Northampton County Board of Commissioners.

On Tuesday, the last day of the fiscal year, the commissioners approved the $27,236,066 operating budget in a 4-1 vote.

Of that amount, $22,470,875 is the county’s general fund budget and reflects a decrease of $669,398 (three percent) than last year’s budget.

Faced with declining revenue and state cutbacks, the budget was the result of County Manager Wayne Jenkins and Finance Officer Dot Vick working closely with county department heads adjusting and balancing the budget.

The result of that teamwork was, perhaps, the biggest relief for county officials as the budget satisfies a debt liquidation of $1.3 million and nixed the need for five day furloughs for county employees.

The tax rate in the county will still stand at 78 cents per $100 of value.

No appropriation from the county’s undesignated fund balance is needed to “balance the budget,” but does appropriate $108,750 from the Health Department’s Home Health fund balance to support health services.

“We have transferred $108,750 from Home Health to balance the furloughs,” said Jenkins to the commissioners.

Total general government is budgeted at $3.42 million, while public safety is $5.83 million.

Education allocations are set at just over $4 million.

Of that amount Northampton County Schools’ current expense is budgeted at $3.5 million and their capital outlay stands at $325,000.

Jenkins said $90,000 was removed from the schools’ current expense budget.

Human Services (including Health) is budgeted at $6.36 million and Economic/Physical Development is set at $718,068.

Though the budget is clearly hammered out, a gray-area still exists with $75,000 of revenue that may be held back by the state.

Jenkins said at a recent meeting with department heads informed him they are prepared to close that gap if the revenue is held.

The commissioners commended Jenkins, Vick and the department heads for their work.

“It’s something to behold,” said Commissioner Virginia Spruill of the budget.

“It’s been hard on us, but it’s been twice as hard on you all because you had to do the footwork,” said Commission Vice Chair Fannie Greene.

Board Chair Robert Carter threw in his accolades for the county staff thanking them for their “hard and tough” work.

“I have served on the board since 1998 and this is the first year I can recollect a budget (being balanced) without using the fund balance.”

Commissioner James Hester offered a motion to approve the budget; it was seconded by Spruill.

Before the board voted, Commissioner Chester Deloatch questioned Jenkins on three organizations/entities that have no county appropriations in the budget.

“You’re going to leave the old folks out (J.W. Faison Senior Center), Lake Gaston Weed Control, Uhuru (Community Development Corporation in Rich Square),” Deloatch asked. “There are three problems I see.”

Jenkins explained the Senior Center, a non-profit organization and is not supported by the county government.

A $25,000 allocation from the county over a three-year period had been agreed upon with the Senior Center and $15,000 had already been paid.

Jenkins said the $10,000 the county had planned to budget for the Senior Center this year could be made up by an expected increase from the state.

The Lake Gaston Weed Control and Uhuru were similar in that county funding is neither required nor critical, but rather made as contributions.

Jenkins said contributions were made to those organization/entities when money in the county was plentiful.

“This year we didn’t have plenty of money,” he said.

The budget passed in a 4-1 vote with Deloatch giving the only nay.