HC budget approved

Published 8:11 am Monday, June 30, 2014

WINTON – The Hertford County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously here Thursday to approve a spending plan for next fiscal year totaling $25.2 million.

The new budget goes into effect beginning on July 1 and uses $1.33 million of the county’s fund balance to help pay the expected expenditures.

The General Fund budget for FY 2014-2015 is $25,266,955 with the tax rate unchanged at 84 cents.

Speaking before the Commissioners on Thursday at their regular monthly meeting County Manager Loria Williams made an update related to a Public Safety appropriation of an additional $33,348.

Williams told the board there had been – and continue to be – meetings held in regard to the consolidation of the E-911 Central Communication Center and the Hertford County Sheriff’s Office when the cutover finally happens and the Center is no longer under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff.

“I asked the Sheriff to bring me some information and some numbers as it relates to those functions that are currently being performed by telecommunicators within the Sheriff’s Office, but cannot be performed by the telecommunicators when they are not under the (Sheriff’s) umbrella,” Williams said.  “Those functions are domestic violence protective orders, ‘hot files’, which consist of wanted persons, missing persons, stolen license plates, stolen items, gun permits, sex offenders, sex offenders’ registration.”

Williams said these law enforcement-related functions are all handled by the sheriff’s office and recommends that they remain under that jurisdiction after the separation of E-911 from sheriff’s office.  She went on to cite the numbers Sheriff Vaughan provided.

“Once we reviewed all of that: what could happen, what could not happen, and looked at what other jurisdictions have done, they created a TAC officer within the Sheriff’s office to handle those types of things,” Williams said. “I’m going to keep it a telecommunicator job class, but it will be within the Sheriff’s Office.”

The county’s tax rate, Williams said, is based on an estimated valuation of property as of January 1, 2014 of $1,534,006,546 at 95 percent collections.

Williams said there will be no increase in solid waste fees, water rates, or taxes.

The commissioners individually praised Williams and the county finance team for their efforts.

Commissioner Howard Hunter, III, citing his candidacy for the N.C. House’s 5th District, and noting that this would be his final budget as a commissioner, said he wanted to clear up rumors regarding reports of cuts in school funding.

“The county does not fund teachers,” Hunter emphasized. “We fund the building of schools and the maintaining of schools.  The state funds teachers.  We (commissioners) should not be held hostage or retaliated against because certain entities did not receive the funds they wanted; not needed, but wanted. ”

“Any funds that we give to the schools we can’t earmark,” said commissioner Curtis Freeman. “We can tell them we want to supplement your bus drivers, your teacher’s assistants, and whomever, but once it gets (to the Board of Education) we can’t earmark it.  We don’t give or take money, that (decision) comes from the state.”

“To reiterate, taxes are not going up,” Freeman said. “We will continue to provide the same services and we are even funding some additional services with some additional projects like the new courthouse.”

Williams also cited the county’s debt service is being maintained.

Commissioners Johnny Ray Farmer, Ronald Gatling, and board Chairman William Mitchell also gave their words of appreciation.

“I truly think we have really put more hard work into it than in years past,” said Mitchell. “I can truly tell you blood, sweat, and tears go into these budgets and into these decisions.  You have all done a great job this year, as in years past, and we are exceptionally proud of the work and the product Hertford County government has produced.”

With those words, Hunter – in this role for perhaps the final time as a county commissioner – made a motion to accept the 2014-15 FY budget, seconded by Freeman, and it passed unanimously.

The approved budget earmarks a shade over $6 million for Public Safety, with the Sheriff’s Office ($1.97 million) and EMS ($1.14 million) accounting for over one-half of those funds.

The Commissioners committed $5.4 million of taxpayer money to education. Hertford County Public Schools will receive the lion’s share of that money ($4.27 million) while Roanoke-Chowan Community College gains $878,839 plus another $150,000 in capital outlay.

Human Services will receive $6.6 million in county funds.