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Bertie budget approved

WINDSOR – The Bertie County Board of Commissioners has approved the county’s 2015-16 budget ordinance for the upcoming fiscal year.

The final budget meeting was held June 18 in the Commissioner’s Room at the County Offices Building here and the vote on passage was unanimous.

“Most important for the county’s citizens there is no tax rate increase proposed for next year, and we believe that the revenues are estimated very conservatively,” said Board chairman Ronald “Ron” Wesson prior to a June 15 public hearing where citizens voiced their concerns.

The commissioners met twice several times over the past two weeks to review the then-proposed budget and to hear from those regarding a budget request for next year; most prominently the Bertie County School system. Following their meeting, County Manager Scott Sauer and Finance Director William Roberson and their staffs found ways to provide an additional $515,000 in funding ($500,000 in current expense and $15,000 in capital outlay) for the school system next year.

Wesson asked Thursday if there were any outstanding budget issues, questions or concerns before the Commissioners considered the final 2015-16 Budget Ordinance.

For the Commissioners, it wasn’t just a look back, but also a chance to look and move forward.

Commissioner Ernestine Byrd Bazemore had a concern regarding the recreation facility in Windsor and suggested that a cost estimate be prepared for a full size basketball court and that estimate be presented at the next regularly scheduled Commissioner’s meeting.

Vice Chairman Tammy Lee also made an inquiry regarding staff and service hours for the county’s Veterans Service Office. There was discussion among the Commissioners about possibly expanding the hours to full time sometime in the future.

Martin Community College Bertie Campus administrator Norman Cherry was on hand and received some good news as there was discussion about future projects, including the MCC welding initiative proposed by the college for the former Bertie High School, and where some of the instructional materials, including equipment, have already been placed.

With the success of the Emergency Services’ CADET program, there was discussion among the Commissioners about the possibility of a CADET program for Corrections and Law Enforcement Officer training, bridging the gap between high school and age 20 for job candidates.

Lastly, a brief discussion was held on more scrutiny of the recent funding proposals from non-profit agencies, especially those who submitted requests after the budget deadline.

Sauer briefly fielded questions regarding the county’s appropriated fund balance, the use of credit and debit cards as well as the possibility of accepting automatic draft payments for payment by water customers on the county water system as the water system has expanded. Lastly, there were inquiries about the need to examine post-employment benefits such as health insurance coverage for retirees, all part of the Commissioners’ “human capital” initiative.

Finally, because there have been inquiries on emergency readiness in the event of violent weather, particularly with regard to shelters, Sauer reported that work is ongoing to prepare detailed cost estimates for the installation of emergency generators at shelter sites, specifically where school facilities serve in that capacity.

When the discussion ended, Chairman Wesson asked if there were no further questions or items of discussion; then called for a motion to consider the budget ordinance.  Commissioner John Trent offered a motion to approve the 2015-16 ordinance, and for the staff work to continue on the items noted in discussion with a report to be presented at the next Commissioner’s meeting.  Commissioner Stewart White seconded the motion and the vote was unanimous, 5-0, for approval.