Ahoskie budget approved

Published 9:08 am Wednesday, July 5, 2017

AHOSKIE – The newly approved 2017-18 budget here is indicative of Ahoskie’s financial hardship brought to light earlier this year where the town’s unassigned fund balance of over $1 million was wiped out.

The Ahoskie Town Council last week approved the new operating budget for FY 17-18, one that is nearly $1.5 million less than its predecessor. The vote came after a required public hearing, during which no one came forward to speak.

Council members voted unanimously to approve the new $6.28 million General Fund budget, one that went into effect on July 1. Last year at this time the General Fund budget was approved at $7.65 million and included a five cent increase on property taxes.

There is no tax hike this year as Ahoskie maintains its current rate of 81 cents (per $100 of property value).

Property tax ($2.5 million) is the leading source of revenue on which the new budget is built. Other major sources of revenue include the local option sales tax ($1.15 million), $553,000 for garbage pick-up user fees, $300,000 in Utilities Franchise tax, and $248,000 in motor vehicle taxes.

Public safety accounts for the lion’s share of the departmental appropriations from the new budget. The Ahoskie Police Department tops the list of using taxpayers dollars as they were budgeted $1.88 million. The Ahoskie Fire Department received $788,175.

Other departments receiving at least six figures worth of funds were: Cultural and Recreational ($931,555), Administration ($627,355), Streets ($595,454), Environmental Protection ($547,254), Public Works ($290,926), Public Building and Grounds ($172,729), Planning & Zoning ($160,767), and Governing Body ($144,300).

Additionally, Ahoskie’s budget includes a separate Enterprise Fund (water and sewer services). That budget for 2017-18 totals $3.66 million. The majority of that budget is paid for by user fees (an expected $3.26 million over the next 12 months).

Councilman Justin Freeman thanked interim Town Manager Ralph Clark and Ahoskie Finance Officer Patricia Bradley for putting together what he referenced as a “sound budget.”

“We’ve taken an extensive look at these numbers and I’m very comfortable with them,” stated Councilman C. David Stackhouse, who motioned for the budget’s approval. “We’ve learned a lot from our budget workshops.”

Councilman Charles Reynolds wanted to know more about the budget numbers for police and fire.

Newly hired Town Manager Kerry McDuffie, who came onboard at the tail end of the budget process, answered by saying, “The Police Department asked for four new officers, but there was only one additional officer written into this budget. What I would recommend is waiting until later in the budget year to hire for that position or use that money for (police) equipment.

“With the fire department, last year’s budget was $980,000. The new budget is $788,000, so obviously there is some reduction there,” McDuffie added.

“I talked with the (Police) chief (Troy Fitzhugh) and he would love to have those four new officers, but he thinks he can make things work with the staff he has right now until the town can do better,” said Mayor Jimmie Rowe.

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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