Budget decision due today

Published 8:47 am Tuesday, June 26, 2012

WINTON – After months of debate, Hertford County’s proposed budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year will go to a vote today (Tuesday).

The county’s Board of Commissioners has scheduled a 9 a.m. meeting for the purpose of adopting the $23.5 million budget, one that contains some changes over the document originally presented in mid May by County Manager Loria Williams.

Highlighted among those changes are returning a four percent cut to local public schools and Roanoke-Chowan Community College as well as a $10 annual increase in the fee assessed to each household in the county for Solid Waste disposal.

At their regularly scheduled meeting last week the commissioners conducted the required public hearing on the new budget, one that proposes no increase in the property tax rate.

However, Williams did note that changes were made to both the revenue generated and expenditures of the new budget following a workshop held by the commissioners. Those changes included $261,585 in additional revenue.

“This restores cuts that were recommended and were part of the budget I presented back in mid May,” Williams said. “Some changes were made due to (line item) corrections that needed to be made.”

Namely, those changes include:

Reversing a decision to cut Hertford County Public Schools by four percent; thus providing “level” funding ($4,173,524) in current expense money by adding $173,524;

Returning a proposed $31,154 (four percent) cut to Roanoke-Chowan Community College and revising the county’s local contribution to the current year level ($778,839);

$35,000 that was cut, in error, to the EMS budget (now revised at a total of $100,000);

Restoring a $9,210 cut to the Health Authority, returning that entity to level funding ($230,250);

Fixing a $14,000 error in the county’s Central Telephone Service, a figure revised to $277,000; and

Revising the Sheriff’s Office fleet management budget by $75,000 to purchase three new vehicles.

At their workshop the commissioners agreed to cut funding to the Ahoskie Chamber of Commerce ($2,000) and to the Town of Ahoskie for their annual July 4th fireworks ($4,000).

The board added $35,000 in contingency funding to the county’s Recreation Commission.

As far as the changes to the Solid Waste budget, Williams said she recently discovered new rules and regulations for the disposal of electronic items.

“We had found a vendor that would take those items and pay us for them,” Williams said. “That arrangement has changed. Now they charge us to take those items and we have so many televisions; it is amazing the number of TV’s that wind up at the landfill….tons of TV’s. It will cost us to the tune of $25,000 (for disposal) and we had not taken that into consideration (when initially developing the new budget).”

Williams said the new budget also includes $63,000 of fixed assets, a one-time line item for 2012-13.

“I’m already at an $88,000 loss with those two items,” she explained. “That (fixed asset) fund has operated at a loss for the past three years.”

Williams said the solid waste budget is calculated on numbers provided by the tax office – 6,000 households times the annual solid waste fee of $115 per household.

“After those two numbers are multiplied we reduce that amount by five percent due to our tax collection rate of 95 percent,” she noted. “Then we take off an additional $10,000 in exemptions that we give every year. That leaves us at $320,000, but somehow we’re not collecting that amount. I don’t know why. We’re collecting around $306,000 so we’re coming up short.”

With that said, Williams proposed a $10 hike in the Solid Waste fee per household (raising it from $115 to $125 annually).

Williams said the $10 increase plus a plan to sell construction shingles dumped at the landfill to an outside firm should help to stabilize the Solid Waste fund.

Commission Chairman Curtis Freeman encouraged Williams to locate the source of the “numbers deficit” in the Solid Waste fund.

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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