No tax hike for Bertie

Published 10:37 am Friday, May 27, 2011

WINDSOR – Make it an even decade.

Bertie County Manager Zee Lamb proposed a balanced budget for fiscal year 2011-12 Thursday and the document suggests no tax increase for the tenth consecutive year in the county.

Lamb gave much of the credit for the lack of a tax increase to tax collection rates in the county which are on the rise, also for the tenth year. The tax collection rate rose slightly to 96.09 during 2009-10 and is also faring well for the current year.

“That is the reason the commissioners have been able to do something very important for the citizens of Bertie County and not raise their tax rate,” Lamb said.

The County Manager said there were many issues that hurt the current year budget including state mandates and cuts in interest income, but the coming year still holds some good news.

Among that good news is a salary increase for all county employees, a bump in funding for public schools and volunteer fire departments, two new positions in the 9-1-1 Communications Office and no increase in water rates for the county customers.

Lamb began his presentation with the county’s projected revenue for the $21.2 million budget.

The upcoming budget anticipates approximately $8.17 million in ad valorem taxes for the 2011 year and the collection of $163,000 in prior years’ delinquent real and personal property taxes, $155,400 in prior years’ motor vehicle taxes and $113,000 in penalties, interest and other charges for late tax payment.

The budget also expects income from sales tax, solid waste host fees, interest income, water sales and service, revenues from the Register of Deeds, permits and planning and fund balance appropriation (approximately $1.2 million).

One of the toughest parts of the budget is the revenue from interest, according to Lamb. For fiscal year 2006-07 that total was $355,999 and this year the budget anticipates only $50,000.

“Interest income is one place that hurt us a lot in recent years,” Lamb said.

Turning his attention to the expenditures for the coming year, Lamb first began with a look at public education. The proposed budget contains $3,003,000 for public schools, an increase of $112,800 or four percent.

While the proposed budget is less than the nine percent requested by the school board, it does represent a continued improvement in funding for the district. Since the 2005-06 budget, school funding has increased from $1,950,000 to the more than $3 million anticipated this year.

In addition, the budget appropriates $375,000 in school capital outlay (the full request) and a total of approximately $321,500 for repayment of QZAB loans. It also budgets a $525,403 for debt payment on Bertie Middle School.

The budget contains equal funding – $60,000 for Martin Community College and $35,000 for Roanoke Chowan Community College – from last year’s budget.

Bertie County Sheriff John Holley’s office will receive a bump in funding to just over $2 million. The budget includes funds for five fully equipped new vehicles  and $48,000 for Viper Radios.

Sheriff Holley will also have two new employees in the 9-1-1 Communications Center as the county continues to add emergency dispatchers to comply with plans to eventually add an Emergency Medical Dispatch system.

Animal Control will see a 22 percent increase in the budget, which includes the purchase of a new vehicle for the department.

Fire departments will see an increase in funding to $20,000 per year per department. In the past, the departments received $10,000 each year and could apply for $5,000 in matching funds for equipment every two years.

Lamb said the result was the departments were receiving $12,500 per year and the board had decided to eliminate the matching funds and simply provide $20,000 per year per department.

The Department of Social Services will also see a dramatic increase as Lamb said DSS will cost tax payers in Bertie County $300,000 more than last year because of spending cuts by the North Carolina General Assembly that have to be picked up on the local level.

The Bertie-Martin Regional Jail will also see an increase in funding because of new census numbers. Bertie County’s responsibility for the jail rose from 44 percent to 46.5 percent because of the increase in county population. The county will now fund the jail at $814,364.

The budgeted amount for the public health authority totals $137,316 including $96,000 for the current year and the final payment of the fund balance purchase (slightly more than $41,000). It also provides $83,871 for payment for debt service to build the health department.

Elections will receive just over $108,000 and recreation will be funded at $226,270. Other funding includes the Council on Aging ($393,416) and Register of Deeds ($306,845).

The commissioners set a public hearing for 7 p.m. Thursday, June 20 to hear input before adopting the budget which must be done by July 1 according to North Carolina General Statutes.