Northampton Commissioners approve budget

Published 8:56 am Tuesday, June 19, 2012

JACKSON – Northampton County citizens will see a five cent tax increase on personal and property taxes in the upcoming year.

On Monday, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners approved the county’s 2012-13 budget which was formulated on a tax rate of 92 cents per $100 of value.

The $29.54 million general fund operating budget requires a reduction in force of five positions, retains employee health insurance at a 90/10 cost-share and includes a 2.5 percent cost of living increase for county employees.

County Manager Wayne Jenkins stressed the reason for the tax increase lies with a “multitude of factors.”

“This tax rate increase is not caused by any additional funding for the Northampton County Board of Education and it is not caused in any respect by the building of the new DSS (Department of Social Services) building,” he said. “The five cents increase was required due to your 4.7 percent increase in public safety (the addition of a new EMS crew Jan. 1, 2013), 100 percent increase in health insurance for retirees; this budget also carries a $200,000 increase to the county tax dollars for the additional increase (9.8 percent) for our health insurance.”

The budget requires a $677,165 appropriation from the undesignated fund balance which is $370,229 less than current year and provides for an increase of $315,649 in general county government, a seven percent increase ($476,801) in public safety, and sustains funding levels in environmental protection, economic and physical development and health and human services.

For the county’s fire districts, the budget levies 3.93 cents per $100 value of real and personal property for the fire service district for the Jackson Fire Department; 4.97 cents for Rich Square Fire Department, 5.09 cents for Lasker Fire Department; 5.04 cents for Seaboard Fire Department; and 7.42 cents for the Woodland Fire Department.

Northampton County Schools is appropriated $3.16 million for current expense, $345,000 for capital outlay and $100,000 coming from fines and forfeitures.

Ongoing capital projects include the Phase V water system improvements, the construction of a new Department of Social Services facility, infrastructure improvements to support the Enviva wood pellet manufacturing plant and a natural gas pipeline extension to serve an expansion to Severn Peanut Company. When complete those projects will expend approximately $19.2 million.

During the public hearing, Rev. Richard Webb and Richie Harding requested the commissioners not provide additional funding to Northampton County Schools.

“I’m hoping that the board will not issue any funds to the Board of Education until they can present a plan for a new centrally located high school for our children,” Webb said. “If the commissioners wish to issue funds, taxpayer money will be wasted, a new school will never be built and very little funds will be put into education.”

He added he felt the School Board needed money to help bring Northampton County School-East up to code for the merging of the two high schools.

Harding said his concerns were close to Webb’s in regards to the school board’s fiscal responsibility. He questioned if the money in the school system was being spent wisely.

“I ask you, as the county commissioners, to please talk to the school board to ensure the money that’s been spent is being spent wisely,” he said.

Jenkins the budget that was just presented does appropriate a total of $3.6 million to Northampton County Schools and of that $3.5 million is direct county tax dollars.

“That is the same level of funding that we funded at current year,” he said. “The Board of Education requested $680,000 in additional funding on top of that. The board worked through that as they did all of our department requests, and what was proposed today is the best of the worse that this board could deal with after struggling for six weeks. The additional funding was considered, but there is no additional funding in this budget (for the school district).”

Commission Chairwoman Virginia Spruill added by law the county is required to fund the local school system.

“This county has always met its obligation in funding our schools,” she said. “Never assume that we do not fund our public schools in Northampton County.”

The budget passed in a 4-0 vote with Commissioner Joseph Barrett absent from the meeting.