HC to borrow three million

Published 10:17 am Monday, January 18, 2016

WINTON – Local government officials here will move forward with a plan to spend as much as $3 million to renovate Hertford County Office Building #1.

A portion of that facility was once the home of several offices of county government, to include the County Manager, Tax Collection and Appraisal, County Mapping, and Economic Development. Those offices moved last year to the new Government Center located adjacent to the newly opened Hertford County Courthouse.

The other portion of Office Building #1 remains as the home of the Hertford County Department of Social Services, who will occupy the entire facility once renovations are completed.

At their meeting last week, the county’s Board of Commissioners approved a resolution authorizing the filing of a financial agreement that will open the door for the county to borrow the money for the renovation project.

“Any time that we, as a local government entity, are looking to borrow money, we have to get that application approved by the (North Carolina) Local Government Commission,” said County Manager Loria Williams.

Williams said an architect has estimated the cost of the renovation at $2,525,000.

“We are looking to give ourselves a little cushion as it relates to how the bids will come in; the Local Government Commission recommends that you give yourself a ceiling so if the bids come in over the estimates of the architect, then we do not have to start this entire process over again,” Williams noted in giving the reasoning behind borrowing $3 million. “The $3 million is a cost we will not exceed.”

Williams said the project will be put out for bid in the next 30 days.

One of the stipulations in the resolution calls for an increase in property tax if necessary to help pay for the project. That part of the resolution was cause for concern by the Commissioners.

“The Local Government Commission feels that if taxes are necessary to pay the debt service, you don’t want to paint yourself in a corner, but they want to ensure that you have the means to pay for the loan you are about to undertake,” Williams said. “I don’t estimate that this new debt service will require a tax increase. If for some reason it does, then it will be less than one penny over the life of the loan (15-to-20 years).”

She reminded the Commissioners that since the renovation project benefits DSS, there will be some federal reimbursement on the project costs.

“To clarify things, we’re not looking at raising taxes; this is a just in case scenario down the road,” said Commissioner Curtis Freeman.

“Yes, but you have to understand that in the whole scheme of the budget there’s going to be an added debt service payment. As it relates to all the revenue that feeds our budget, there may not be a need to have a tax increase, but this does increase our operational costs and the Local Government wants us to show there are other means to pay for this addition to our debt service,” Williams remarked.

“What I don’t want is for our citizens to say we’re going to automatically raise taxes for this project,” said Freeman. “We’re not saying that; we’re saying we won’t know what the future will hold until we start our budget process in April and we look at revenue and expenditures to see where this project falls.”

The Commissioners, on a motion from Freeman, approved the resolution without objection.

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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