Northampton increases spending without tax hike; county employees get raise

Published 10:52 am Thursday, June 23, 2016

JACKSON – The Northampton County Commissioners voted unanimously here Monday night to adopt the 2016-17 budget that increases spending, but does not raise taxes.

“The budget does not include a tax rate increase,” said County Manager Kimberly Turner.

The ad valorem tax rate will remain at 92 cents per $100 of valuation.

Turner said, “This budget does include a $2.8 million appropriation from the undesignated fund balance.”

She reminded the audience for the public hearing and the commissioners that one cent on the tax rate generates $169,866 in revenue.

She said, “The total General Operating Budget is $33.7 million, which reflects an increase of $1.8 million or a five percent increase compared to current funding levels. This budget satisfies a debt liquidation schedule of $1.4 million, of which $635,000 is schools; $780,116 general county debt; and retains a Contingency Fund in the amount of $100,000.”

In the new budget, Turner said all employees will get a 2.5 percent cost of living increase, as well as a 10 percent decrease in health insurance costs.

She explained that the county now pays 80 percent of employees’ health insurance costs, but will be paying 90 percent of those costs for the 2016-17 budget year.

So county government employees now paying 20 percent for health insurance will now only pay 10 percent of those costs.

She broke down the budget by projected expenditures as 37.2 percent for human services, 26.4 percent for public safety, 13.5 percent for public education, 12.4 percent for general government, 6.3 percent for “other,” and 4.2 percent for debt service.

Following her presentation, Commissioner Robert Carter asked how much more the school system got this year over last year.

Turner replied it got $800,000 more. She said in this budget the county appropriates $4.5 million to the Northampton County School System: $3.7 million in current expense, $795,000 for capital outlay, and $70,000 from fines and forfeitures.

Board Vice-Chairman Joseph Barrett wanted to know if any departments were cut. Turner said no.

From the public, Albert Vann said children are fleeing the school system because its performance is abysmal. He didn’t want the commissioners to fund plans to move students to different schools.

No school board member was in attendance to take the question, so the commissioners moved on.

Another public speaker, Tim Hollowell, said he didn’t have any questions on the budget. He did, however, present copies of a petition to the commissioners with 730 signatures against the Board of Education’s plan to move all eastern Northampton County high school students to Gaston.

Other petitions are still being circulated he said, but Hollowell wanted the commissioners to be aware of it before it is presented to the BOE. He later invited the commissioners to sign it.

No one said they would or wouldn’t.

Hollowell said the feeling in the community is that the BOE is not representing the best interests of students or citizens.

“They’re representing their own interests,” he stressed.

No one from the public addressed the commissioners.

After a few minutes of addressing other board matters, the county commissioners voted unanimously to approve the 2016-17 budget.