Lamb holds line on taxes

Published 8:49 am Tuesday, June 8, 2010

WINDSOR – Make it nine years and counting.

Barring any last minute changes to the fiscal year 2010-11 budget, Bertie County citizens can expect the same 78-cent tax rate that has been in place for the past eight consecutive years.

Bertie County Manager Zee Lamb made his official budget presentation Monday morning during the regular meeting of the Bertie County Commissioners. In the budget message, Lamb said he included no tax increase, but said water rates would rise moderately in the new budget.

“The FY 2010-2011 budget, as proposed, is based on a .78-cent tax rate, the same as FY 2009-2010,” Lamb said. “This represents the ninth consecutive year that the tax rate has not increased.”

Base water rates in Bertie County will rise slightly, however, as the monthly fee is slated to increase by $3 per month (to $20) for the base rate and by 25 cents per thousand gallons after 5,000 gallons.

The total revenues in the budget for all funds, less transfers is $20,665,805 compared to the previous original budget of $19,444,494.

The revenues are based on a property tax collection rate of 96 percent for real and personal property and 80 percent for motor vehicles.

Board Chairman Norman M. Cherry Sr. asked why the motor vehicle collection rate was so low when people had to pay taxes to be able to renew their tags.

Lamb explained while that was the case, many people waited almost a year to pay the taxes, thus putting them in a different budget year.

The total valuation for the coming year is FY 2010-11 is $1,087,281,011. At 100 percent collection that would mean each penny on the tax rate would produce $108,728.10.

Anticipated revenues include $8.4 million in property taxes, $1.425 million in sales tax revenue, $1.75 million in solid waste host fees, $60,000 in interest income, $50,000 in excise taxes and $60,000 from the planning and inspections office.

The new budget also includes a planned fund balance appropriation of nearly $900,000. Lamb said the appropriation would leave the county still over the 25 percent threshold, but would cause concern if it had to happen again in 2011-2012.

An overview of expenditures shows public education receiving $2,887,500 for the coming year. The figure, which is the same as last year’s contribution, is five percent more than requested by the school board.

The increase is a direct result of the commissioner’s continued commitment to public education, according to Lamb.

For two consecutive years (06-07, 07-08 and 08-09), the county increased school funding by 10 percent, followed by a five percent increase last year.

“After much deliberation, recognizing the pressures on the Bertie County School system from Judge Howard Manning and the State of North Carolina, the county commissioners have decided to appropriate five percent more than requested by the board of education,” Lamb said. “The Bertie County Board of Commissioners want to send a clear signal to the citizens of Bertie County, the State of North Carolina and Judge Manning that the Bertie County Board of Commissioners are committed to improvements in the public education system through increased funding and support despite the economic downturn facing the county, state and nation.”

There will also be an eight percent increase for Sheriff John Holley’s office. The proposed budget provides $1.77 million compared to $1.64 million a year ago.

“The budget also includes funds for four new vehicles and a new courthouse security position,” Lamb said.

The budget also increases 911 Communications 7.3 percent over last year with a final expenditure of $258,490. The increase will add an additional dispatcher in the department.

Lamb said one slight increase he was pleased with was a 6.3 percent hike in the budget of the Department of Social Services.

“Because of the economic conditions, there has been an increase in their case load so to only have a 6.3 percent increase is good,” he said. “The only new position being added at DSS is one fully funded by the state.”

There will also be an increase in the recreation budget which will include the new position approved by the county commissioners and funded for two years by a Golden LEAF grant. The new budget will be $216,062.

The proposed budget also restores one position to the Register of Deeds Belinda White’s office which was eliminated in last year’s budget cuts. The Register of Deeds will receive a budget of $288,968.

Other budgets include Public Health ($187,500), Bertie-Martin Regional Jail ($787,634), Council on Aging ($364,532), Elections ($103,134) and Animal Control ($76,188).

There is no proposed salary increase for staff of the county, though Lamb said there were also no furloughs or any type of salary cuts within the budget.

Bertie County Commissioner Charles L. Smith moved to set the public hearing for the budget during the regular meeting of the commissioners slated for 7 p.m. June 21. Commission Vice Chairman L.C. Hoggard III offered a second and it passed without objection.