Four pennies more

Published 9:55 am Thursday, May 26, 2016

GATESVILLE – Pending final approval from the Board of Commissioners, Gates County citizens may see as much as a four-cent increase in their property taxes.

Last week, Gates County Manager Natalie Rountree released her 2016-17 local budget ordinance. The $11.17 million financial spreadsheet includes a $325,000-plus increase for Gates County Rescue & EMS, which Rountree said prompted the increase in property taxes.

Gates County property owners are currently paying 64 cents per $100 of value. If the Commissioners approve Rountree’s proposed budget at its June 1 meeting, the tax rate will increase to 68 cents.

“The additional four cents was needed to cover the request for additional funding to EMS,” Rountree said. “We have a contract with them and their board of directors asked for the increase to continue to provide those services.”

When asked about the funding increase, which went from $25,000 to $353,175 annually, Rountree said Rescue & EMS needed those funds to replace aging equipment and for other upgrades.

By state law, the county is responsible for providing emergency rescue and EMS services. Some counties – such as Hertford, Northampton and Bertie – operate their own rescue and EMS. Gates contracts that service.

The county’s current contract with Rescue & EMS expires June 30. The added funding requested under the new contract will maintain this important level of service to county citizens.

Prior to using a tax hike to cover the Rescue & EMS funding request, county officials discussed other ways to generate the necessary funding. That discussion included levying a service provider fee or tax.

“We will continue to look at those options after the new budget year begins July 1,” Rountree said.

As far as if the four-cent property tax increase will be rescinded if another method of covering the Rescue & EMS budget is put into place, Rountree said she could not answer that at this time.

“We’re going into a (property) revaluation year in 2017, making it tough to predict what will take place,” she noted.

As far as generating revenue to fuel Rountree’s proposed budget, the majority will come from ad valorem property taxes ($5.75 million) as well as from motor vehicle taxes ($576,893).

The county’s share of the state sales tax also fuels the local budget to the tune of a projected $1.48 million. Grants and reimbursements comprise $2.28 million of expected revenue.

To balance the bottom line of the budget, Rountree expects to use $236,250 from the county’s appropriated fund balance as well as $36,000 as a transfer from the General Fund.

Appropriations from the $11.17 budget are topped by $2.7 million in local funds to the county’s public school system. Other departments receiving the lion’s share of taxpayer dollars include Social Services ($1.95 million), the Sheriff’s Office ($999,197), GITS ($647,294), Building & Grounds ($396,000), Administration & Finance ($373,569), Tax Department ($315,725), and Emergency Management ($291,053).

There is $951,800 budgeted to pay the county’s debt service during FY 2016-17.

Upon approval by the Commissioners, the new budget becomes effective July 1.

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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