Gates budget built on current tax rate

Published 8:41 am Thursday, June 2, 2011

GATESVILLE – No lay-offs; tax rate remains unchanged; raises for employees; slight to moderate increases in departmental funding; and no use of fund balance….in a nutshell, that’s what Toby Chappell has proposed in his 2011-12 fiscal year budget.

The Gates County Manager presented that 22-page document to the local Board of Commissioners last week. Now, it’s up to the board to make any changes prior to a required public hearing later in June. By law, the budget must be approved prior to July 1.

Chappell has proposed a budget totaling slightly over $12.7 million, of which nearly $10.4 million is in the General Fund. The total budget is $584,135 more than its current fiscal year counterpart.

For the third year in a row, the property tax rate remains at 64 cents (per $100 of assessed value).

“To continue growing our tax base and not to simply increase the tax rate is and remains to be a priority of mine as well as the commissioners,” Chappell said. “Holding the tax rate now three years removed from a reval year shows that Gates County is financially strong with sound fiscal management and is operating within our means.”

The budget proposes a two percent cost of living adjustment in the salaries of county-paid personnel (effective July 1). Additionally, county workers are eligible for up to a two percent merit based pay increase on the hire date anniversary of those employees.

“This will be the second year in a row that our employees have had the opportunity to receive both a cost of living adjustment to their salaries as well as a merit increase,” Chappell noted.

Meanwhile, Chappell has appropriated funds to fill two part-time positions – one for Finance/Employee Benefits and the other for Emergency Management.

One of the key elements of Chappell’s proposed budget is addressing long overdue capital projects. He included a six-year plan in his budget, one that looks at the needs of county-owned buildings through 2016-17. Chappell has suggested to start with replacing the roof on the courthouse as well as new tiling inside and other cosmetic changes as well as replacing the HVAC unit in the Administration Building.

“The ability to plan and prepare, in a financial sense, for these projects can ensure that projects are not dealt with on an emergency basis, but rather on a more systematic and logical basis,” Chappell said.

To fuel the budget, Chappell has identified several key sources of revenue. As expected, property taxes top that list….forecasted at $5.95 million. Gates County’s share of NC sales tax is a combined $1.13 million. Chappell is also banking on the collection of prior year taxes ($387,000) to help balance his proposed 2011-12 budget.

Other streams of projected revenue for the General Fund are $1.36 million from state and federal DSS (Department of Social Services) funding, $362,918 from NC DOT and $125,000 from the NC Lottery.

The overall budget also includes revenue from the Emergency 911 System ($376,099), Fire Protection Fund ($260,000), Water Fund ($873,400) and Solid Waste Fund ($767,000).

Projected budget expenditures from the General Fund include the following:

Public Schools – $2.59 million

Debt Service – $1.29 million

Social Services – $1.17 million

Sheriff – $785,340

GITS – $637,252

Building & Grounds – $533,605

Administration – $315,932

Child Day Care – $302,920

Recreation – $258,640

Tax Dept. – $263,153

Jail – $250,000

Governing Body – $215,136

Central Communications – $178,519

Cooperative Extension – $130,188

Inspections – $123,963

Health Dept. – $118,500

Register of Deeds – $118,292

Planning – $117,640

Schools Capital Outlay – $100,000

Emergency Management – $81,617

Soil Conservation – $87,981

Elections – $71,290

One of the most notable increases to a department is funding to Ambulance/Rescue more than doubles – from $12,000 in current appropriation to $25,000 proposed for 2011-12.

“This budget continues to assure that essential government services are provided and it does so in a manner that is fiscally responsible,” Chappell said.

Chappell added that the local share ($2,592,079) of the funds given to Gates County Public Schools marks a $25,000 increase over current year funding. That hike is one-half of the $50,000 that local school officials asked for during the budget planning process.

“The appropriation to our school system attempts to strike a balance between high quality education and other needs in the county,” Chappell stated.

The County Manager said Gates County finds itself in better financial condition than most of its neighboring counties and a significant number of counties across the state.

“While other counties are considering such drastic actions as performing reductions in its workforce, raising property taxes by as much as eight cents and going into their general fund balance, Gates County has experienced none of these issues,” Chappell noted.

“Gates County stands on the precipice of change that will simultaneously revolutionize the opportunities that our residents have for retail and commercial expenditures while retaining its quiet life and rural charm. The ability to do these things without raising taxes to fund projects is not by accident or coincidence. It is due to the planning and skill of both prior and current boards of Commissioners taking prudent action that was, at times, bold, but was at no time static. I applaud the Commissioners for their vision three years ago to begin to rein in spending in an effort to lessen the impact of the recession on our ability to provide high quality services to the county’s residents. Now, three years after this decision, we find ourselves in a greater financial position than most and poised to make even greater gains in this coming year,” Chappell concluded.

A copy of the proposed budget is available for public viewing during normal business hours in the County Manager’s office.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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