Tax rate undecided

Published 10:02 am Monday, June 11, 2012

WINDSOR – The tax rate for the upcoming fiscal year hasn’t been decided in Bertie County.

Monday, Bertie County Manager Morris Rascoe presented his 2012-13 proposed budget to the county commissioners. Included in the budget was no change in the tax rate of .78 per $100 valuation.

“We sent information to all in-county and out-of-county agencies which receive funding from the county budget,” Rascoe said. “In addition, the budget team met with every department head and presented budget information to the commissioners during work sessions.”

According to Rascoe, the budget as presented included total revenue and expenditures including social services, of $19.2 million, which is slightly more than last year’s originally proposed budget. The total expenditures and revenues in this budget, less transfers, is $21.2 million.

Rascoe said the budget proposed keeping the tax rate unchanged despite the fact it was a revaluation year. He said the revenue-neutral tax rate would have been 73.17 cents. He also reminded the board the tax rate had been unchanged for a decade.

“In order to keep the fund balance at an acceptable rate we felt it was important not to continue to use it as much as in the past few years,” Rascoe said.

Commissioner Norman M. Cherry Sr. asked what would happen if the tax rate was set at .76 per $100 rather than .78.

“Each penny brings in between $100,000 and $103,000,” Rascoe said. “You would have to increase the appropriation from fund balance to take care of the reduced revenue.”

Commission Vice Chairman J. Wallace Perry asked how healthy the fund balance was and Rascoe said he believed it would be between $4.8 and $5 million at the end of the current fiscal year.

Commissioner Rick Harrell asked if appropriating the money from fund balance and dropping the tax rate would take the county below a safe threshold for the fund balance. Rascoe said it would not.

The board agreed by consensus to consider the option of dropping the tax rate between now and the public hearing for the budget, which is set for the board’s next regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, June 18.

Rascoe then hit some of the highlights of the budget. He said it did not contain a cost of living increase for any county employee. He said it also had no funding for the Criminal Justice Partnership Program because it was unclear if the program would be in existence.

The manager said the proposed budget would add five vehicles for the Bertie County Sheriff’s Office, provide one new telecommunicator and fund software and hardware updates for the Bertie County Board of Elections.

The proposed budget as presented to the commissioners anticipates $9.3 million in funding from ad valorem taxes in addition to $325,000 from the Article 29 one-cent sales tax and another $825,000 from the Article 40 sales tax.

Solid waste host fees are anticipated to be $1.85 million next year as well as $43,900 in interest income.

The Water District sales and service revenues anticipated are $1.8 million and the Register of Deeds anticipates $54,800 in revenues. Other revenues anticipated include planning and inspections and a $773,790 appropriation from fund balance.

The budget anticipates appropriating slightly more than $3 million to the Bertie County Public Schools, the exact amount the district received last year. The county will also fund the two community colleges with Martin County Community College scheduled to receive $60,000 and Roanoke-Chowan Community College $35,000.

The Bertie County Sheriff’s Office will receive a budget increase from $1.8 million to $2.1 million, which is approximately 16 percent higher than the current year. The main item in the increased funding will be the addition of the five cars.

The 911 Communications Center will receive a 19 percent increase in its budget to $375,640. That increase will allow for the addition of the new telecommunicator, the next step in the county’s goal of providing emergency medical dispatch.

The Bertie County Animal Control Officer’s budget will drop to $72,260, down 28 percent from last year when a new vehicle was purchased for the department.

The budget includes $20,000 for each of the 12 fire departments in Bertie County and continues to contract with four county volunteer rescue squads and funded their matching grant of $2,500 for equipment and capital needs in the budget.

The social services department budget is proposed at $1.685 million, down from $1.8 million a year ago. The budget further provides slightly more than $300,000 for payment for the debt service of the new building.

Other appropriations include: Public Health ($97,200), Bertie-Martin Regional Jail ($840,733), Recreation ($216,589), Council on Aging ($434,115) and Register of Deeds ($282,929).

The budget figures could change if the commissioners choose to lower the tax rate or make any other adjustments. The current proposed budget is available for public inspection at the office of the Bertie County Manager on Dundee Street.

The budget committee included Rascoe, Finance Officer William Roberson and contracted employee John Ed Whitehurst.