Published 1:26 pm Thursday, June 15, 2017

WINDSOR – With the addition of two, last minute changes, the Bertie County Board of Commissioners, by a 4-1 vote here Monday, approved a General Fund budget of $23,912,844 for FY 2017-18.

Commissioner Tammy Lee cast the lone “nay” vote on the budget, which becomes effective on July 1. It maintains the current property tax rate of 83 cents (per $100 of property value).

Monday’s vote was taken following a required public hearing on the budget.

After a five and one-half hour work session on June 8, the commissioners confirmed the key items in the then proposed budget, one put before the board on June 5 by County Manager Scott Sauer.

Budget deliberations and changes were concluded on June 8 with two final motions approved by the Board. Those approved motions included:

Chairman John Trent offered a motion to utilize the contingency line item to provide $52,540 to be added to the proposed budget for the Better Beginnings program, which will provide for 12 months of operation.  Trent’s motion included a requirement for quarterly updates to the commissioners regarding partnership activity involving the Bertie School District and the county’s Department of Social Services. Any savings achieved through these partnership efforts will be credited to the county by reducing the appropriation on a dollar for dollar basis.

Commissioner Ron Wesson offered a second to Trent’s motion, which passed on a 4-1 vote, with Lee voting no.

Trent offered a second motion, this one directing staff to prepare the FY 2017-2018 Budget Ordinance with the tax rate remaining at the current level of 83 cents due to the ongoing financial burdens of disaster recovery efforts and the pending storm season which began on the first of June.   All other budget items are to remain as proposed and reviewed by the board. His motion further included an additional appropriation of $40,000 for one-time emergency roof repairs on the campus of the Roanoke Chowan Community College as a capital outlay contribution.

Wesson offered a second to that motion, which passed by unanimous vote.

As far as the General Budget items are concerned, Sauer said highlights include:

A three percent cost of living adjustment for county employees, effective July 1. Those employees will also receive an annual contribution of $200 for their medical flexible spending accounts;

An increase in the annual 401k supplemental retirement  contribution of one-half percent (.5%) to achieve 3.0% for non-law enforcement personnel.  Law enforcement personnel receive five percent 401k supplemental retirement contribution as required by state law;

A continuation of the Employee Assistance Program;

An anticipated seven percent increase in employee health insurance effective Jan. 1, 2018; and

An anticipated 25% increase in retiree health insurance effective Jan. 1, 2018. It should be noted that the anticipated cost for retiree health insurance of $437,500 is budgeted for FY 2017-2018.

The newly adopted budget includes $3,003,000 for current expense and $375,000 for capital outlay for Bertie Schools.

In the area of public safety, the budget addresses courthouse security by adding five deputies. Funding for those positions is effective April 1, 2018. The budget also earmarks $96,000 for Courthouse renovations, security hardware and equipment, and another $104,000 for surveillance cameras and equipment. It sets aside $48,000 for audio visual connectivity with Bertie Correctional Institution and Bertie-Martin Regional Jail, allowing prisoners to make remote first appearances in court.

The public safety portion of the budget adds two Telecommunicator positions to staff a third work station. Money for those two positions is effective Sept. 1. It also adds a Records Specialist position recommended for funding Jan. 1, 2018.

In the area of recruiting new employees for public safety, the budget allows for the continuation of a $2,500 sign-on bonus for new hires and limited use of overtime. It also provides funds to lease nine new vehicles over a period of 48 months.

Sauer noted that the new budget for Emergency Services is built on staffing recommendations that are based on revenue targets and call volume expansion trends. That portion of the budget includes:

911 EMS (two budgeted positions held vacant for FY 2016-2017 and covered with part-time staff.  Funding is restored for FY 2017-2018 and there is an offset in cost savings from part-time expenditures);

Non-Emergency Transport (nine additional EMT positions are budgeted effective July 1 with the understanding that the positions will be filled based on call volume and revenue/expenditure “trigger points” monitored by the Finance Director and County Manager, with continued regular updates to the governing body); and

Phase Two Vehicle procurement—USDA Rural Development (2nd loan commitment is $610,000) and Bertie Emergency Management Director Mitch Cooper is proposing acquisition of five “van style” non-emergency transport ambulances at $72,000 per unit and $40,000 for equipment for a total financing proposal of $400,000. First payment will be due in FY 2018-2019 in the amount of $46,000 at a 2.75% interest rate for 15 years, and there is no penalty for early payment.

Other than the aforementioned security upgrades at the courthouse, other budgeted projects for county-owned buildings includes $24,000 for remodeling and upgrades to restrooms on both floors of the Courthouse; $7,565 to replace the duct work in the gym of the Bertie Council on Aging; $12,000 to install bullet proof glass to the Tax Office, install HVAC controls and make repairs to the second floor windows, all at the County Administration Building; $1,500 for floor repair in the former 911 room at the old Sheriff’s Office; $32,083 for HVAC controls, boiler and chiller service and parking lot paving at the DSS office; $4,650 to replace the heat pump at the new Sheriff’s Office; and $10,000 for repairs to the Sheriff’s narcotics building.

For special projects, the commissioners continued their efforts to commit county funds for upgrades at the Blue Jay Recreation Park. That commitment began with $70,000 in the current fiscal year (2016-17) and with the new approved budget adds another $47,000. That, addition to a $150,000 grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Foundation, to be disbursed in September of this year, the Blue Jay Park project will have received $267,000.

Another special project is $50,000 earmarked for a renovation/rebuild effort at the county’s animal shelter.

The lion’s share of the revenue to build the 2017-18 budget comes from $9.24 million in ad valorem (property) tax, the county’s share of state sales tax ($2.51 million), motor vehicle taxes ($1.29 million), landfill host fees ($1.75 million), and non-emergency transport fees ($1.23 million).

The budget also uses $1.62 million of appropriated fund balance.

Leading the departmental appropriations is the Sheriff’s Office ($2.79 million), Emergency Medical Services ($2.51 million), the county’s share of DSS operations ($1.26 million), and non-emergency transport ($1 million).

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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