Northampton tax rate unchanged

Published 7:18 pm Monday, June 17, 2013

JACKSON – In Northampton County’s upcoming fiscal year budget, citizens will see no tax increase.

On Monday, the Northampton Board of Commissioners adopted the county’s $25.41 million general fund operating budget following a public hearing. It will be effective July 1.

According to information provided by County Manager Wayne Jenkins, the budget was formulated on no change to the Ad Valorem tax rate of 92 cents per $100 of value. One cent on the tax rate generates $178,297.

The budget maintains the county’s undesignated fund balance at a fiscally responsible level and shifts an additional 10 percent of health insurance cost to county employees making the cost/share ratio 20 percent for employees and 80 percent for county government.

There is a required appropriation of $687,267 from the undesignated fund balance to equal out the budget.

The budget provides for a decrease of $27,487 in general county government, an $853,117 or an 11.7 percent increase in public safety, and sustains effective level funding for Environmental Protection, Economic and Physical Development and Health and Human Services.

Later in the meeting, Jenkins noted $853,117 increase in Public Safety accounts for the last part of the Northampton EMS program the commissioners had planned in order to provide emergency service coverage on both sides of the county.

“If we had not had that $853,117 increase in Public Safety there actually would have been a $335,000 decrease in your over all budget,” he said to the board.

Local appropriations for Northampton County Schools stand at $3,502,988 with $3.16 million going toward current expense, $261,450 to capital outlay and $80,000 from fines and forfeitures.

The general fund operating budget reflects a $518,019 or a 2.1 percent increase compared to current year funding levels.

During his presentation to the board, Jenkins presented a break down of property tax expenditures (how tax money is used). He noted during the current year budget the county used $16.64 million for schools, Heath Department, Department of Social Services and general county government.

For the 2013-14 budget the county is using $16.4 million of tax dollars for:

Schools-$3.42 million (20.9 percent)

Health Department-$1.12 million (6.7 percent)

DSS-$2.14 million (13.1 percent)

Public Safety-$7.99 million (48.7 percent)

General Government-$1.7 million (10.6 percent)

According to Jenkins’ presentation of Northampton County Department of Social Services $67.29 million budget by funding sources (made up of Federal, State and County) local tax dollars pay 3.2 percent ($2.14 million) of that budget. The state pays 27.4 percent ($18.43 million) and the Federal Government pays 69.4 percent ($46.71 million).

During discussion, Commissioner Virginia Spruill noted that when people suggest cutting in certain departments the commissioners have to be very careful.

Jenkins responded that when money is cut from the budget county officials have to be careful because there are certain programs and funding sources that are federally mandated.

Glenn Fleetwood of Jackson spoke to the commissioners during the public hearing.

“I appreciate the job you have done, but you have a rough job ahead of you,” he said.

Fleetwood noted the drop in the county population as well as the increase in the age of residents and decreasing property values that will hurt the county’s tax base.

“The problem I see is county government is growing,” he said. “Some of the growth I don’t agree with, some of it I do.”

He added he would like to see a tighter rein on employees and keep them accountable for their work.

“We can’t keep taxing the citizens,” he said. “You can’t keep raising taxes.”