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HC budget decision delayed

WINTON – After months of planning, holding workshops with the Commissioners and department heads, and perhaps multiple instances of using an eraser, the 2015-16 Hertford County budget is not quite ready for the governing body to pass final judgment.

At their meeting here Monday night, the county Commissioners were informed of a few late requests for the new budget. The decision was made to delay the Commissioners’ vote on the budget until 9 a.m. on Thursday, June 25.

According to state statute, the budget is required to be approved prior to July 1 (the start of the new fiscal year).

“I will need some final direction from you (Commissioners) in those areas where we have additional (budget) requests,” County Manager Loria Williams told the board. “We need to finalize the budget prior to our June 25 meeting.”

Williams said one request came from Hertford-Northampton Smart Start Partnership for Children, an entity with an office in Murfreesboro. That building needs a new roof and the lowest bid for that work is $12,300.

“Under the agreement we have with Smart Start, should they vacant that building, it reverts back to county ownership and we want it in good condition,” Williams said, adding that the money Smart Start receives from the state cannot be used for capital improvements on the building.

Williams said the current budget allocates $3,800 annually to Smart Start. She recommended using that amount and adding $8,500 in new money, which will cover the cost of the new roof.

The Commissioners approved the recommendation later in the meeting.

Two other budgetary requests came from Sheriff Juan Vaughan. Williams said he was asking to hire an additional bailiff at the new courthouse in addition to seeking raises for the detention officers at the County Jail.

“In the recommended budget we had already provided one, full time bailiff, which the Sheriff wants to upgrade to a deputy (at a higher salary); thusly the Sheriff is requesting the bailiff’s spot be filled,” Williams said, adding later that Vaughan felt the need to have an additional “gun toting deputy” assigned for courthouse duty.

In the second request, Williams said the Sheriff had researched salaries for detention officers in the region and felt, “those officers were not being paid competitively, and I tend to agree with that.”

Williams said there was a high turnover rate for the detention officers at the Jail.

“There are 15 detention officers, and the highest amount of tenure there is three years,” Williams noted. “My recommendation is to look at those officers that now fall below the competitive salary level of $25,800 and adjust those individuals (to that level). That’s where the Sheriff wants the starting salary for a detention officer to start at moving forward.”

She added there needs to be a slight adjustment to the tenured officers to separate those from the newer employees.

“That way they will not all be compressed (salary wise), based on their years of service, at the hiring rate,” Williams stated.

Williams recommended adding $26,581 of new money to the budget to cover those raises. She said that amount includes FICA and retirement.

As far as adding another bailiff, Williams recommended holding off on that decision at the current time.

“The Sheriff can work the part-time bailiffs at least until we can get a feel of finding out truly what we need in that regard at the new courthouse,” she said. “If we find at some point during the upcoming fiscal year that it isn’t working out with the personnel at the courthouse, we can deal with it at that time. We’ll monitor it.”

Later in the meeting, Williams discussed another budget issue dealing with the historic Walter Reed house in Murfreesboro. She said the entity currently using that county-owned facility is moving out effective July 1 and the old residence is in dire need of repair.

Williams informed the Commissioners of a plan that will turn the home over to the Murfreesboro Historical Association. Additionally, the county may add to the $3,500 annually appropriated to the Association to assist with renovation.

A decision on that plan will be part of the June 25 meeting.

Back in May, Williams made her annual budget presentation to the Commissioners. There she recommended a $25.84 million budget, which includes $600,000 in new spending, but maintains the property tax rate at 84 cents (per $100 of value).

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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