Gates County budget proposed

Published 12:17 pm Friday, May 11, 2012

GATESVILLE – Despite a slight increase in the General Fund, Gates County taxpayers will not face a property tax increase in the county’s 2012-13 budget.
County Manager Toby Chappell presented his proposed budget for the upcoming new fiscal year (which begins July 1) at last week’s meeting of the Gates County Board of Commissioners.
Chappell’s proposed numbers call for a $10.75 million General Fund budget, marking a minuscule hike of that fund over the current fiscal year ($10.59 million). However, there is no change in the proposed property tax rate, which remains at 64 cents (per $100 of value) for the fourth consecutive year.
Property tax value for 2012-13 was shown at $926,680,787 which is slightly higher than the current value ($921,620,605).
The proposed numbers show a slight decrease in the total budget – $12.82 million for 2012-13, down from a shade over $13 million in the current year budget.
Among the highlights of the proposed new budget is that Chappell said he doesn’t plan to use any unreserved fund balance as a mechanism to balance the 2012-13 financial spreadsheet. He noted this marks the fourth consecutive year that feat has been accomplished.
The new budget also includes a two percent merit raise for eligible county employees.
“This will be the fourth year of the county’s written evaluation system and the third of which merit increases have been tied to the same,” Chappell said in his budget message. “There has been noticeable improvement in some of our previously average to below average employees that I believe is directly attributable to the merit based pay system.”
Chappell added in his message that the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) has been an “unqualified success.” In the current budget year the CIP has replaced the roof and repaired/replaced flooring in the Courthouse; replaced the roof at the Community Center; replaced the HVAC units in the county’s Administration building; and beautification projects at the Administration and Cooperative Extension buildings.
In the upcoming new fiscal year the CIP calls for the replacement of the HVAC unit at the Cooperative Extension building and the installation of new windows in the Administration building.
While those improvements are needed, the superintendent of the county’s public school system said additional funds are necessary in an effort to maintain an excellent instructional program.
At last week’s commissioners’ meeting, GCPS Superintendent Dr. Barry Williams presented the school system’s proposal for local funding from the county’s 2012-13 budget. Williams requested an increase of $252,600 over current year funding ($2,592,079).
In his budget proposal, Chappell said he had penciled in “level funding” (the current amount) for the school system in 2012-13 plus $100,000 in new appropriation. Additionally, the county will continue to give the school system $100,000 for capital outlay.
“This increase represents the third consecutive year in which the school system has received increases; with the previous increases ranging from $25,000 to $50,000 per year, compounded,” Chappell noted.
Williams said there were a number of factors considered by the school system in developing its budget requests. Those factors include the discontinuance of the Education Job Fund; reversion of a significant amount of state funding; an increase in the state retirement rate and health insurance; increases in maintenance/repair costs; fuel price increase; expected increases in athletic program expenses; and the implementation of the new Common Core and Essential Standards curriculum.
The superintendent projected that salaries and benefits (of non-state supported staff) would top the local share of the budget ($1.3 million). Other “big ticket” expenditures include maintenance & transportation supplies/repairs ($516,046), utilities ($501,686), professional fees/legal fees/insurances ($190,187) and office supplies/contracts/computer hardware ($161,049).
“As we work diligently to meet the challenge of allocating resources in support of a strong instructional program, we appreciate community support and feedback as the budget development process continues,” Williams told the commissioners. “We remain committed to build a budget that will attract and retain highly qualified teachers, which provides the foundation to support student achievement.”
The Board of Commissioners will hold work sessions for the proposed 2012-2013 budget from 2-5 p.m. on Thursday, May 10. Additional work sessions, as needed, have been scheduled for 2-4 p.m. on May 14 and May 24.
A public hearing will be held at 10 a.m., June 6 at the regular Commissioners’ meeting for the proposed 2012-2013 budget.  A special Commissioners’ meeting will be held at 4 p.m. on June 18 to adopt the proposed budget.
The May 10 work session will be held in the Commissioners’ Room; all other work sessions and meetings will be held in the main courtroom, 202 Court Street, Gatesville.
Citizens are invited to make written or oral comments concerning the budget.  Oral comments can be made during the public hearing and written comments should be submitted by June 14 to the County Manager, P O Box 148, Gatesville, NC, 27938.   The proposed 2012-2013 budget will be available for public inspection as of Wednesday, May 2 on the county’s web site, and in the County Manager’s Office during regular business hours.

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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