Bertie budget approved

Published 10:39 am Monday, June 18, 2018

WINDSOR – The Bertie County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously here Monday to approve the county’s 2018-2019 General Fund Budget for fiscal year 2018-19.

The vote followed a preliminary presentation made at the regular June 4 meeting, a full day of hammering out a final budget, and finally, a public hearing held in the Commissioners’ Room on June 11.

Since no one appeared before the Board at the public hearing, the Commissioners proceeded with their vote. Unlike the vote on the FY 2017-18 budget a year ago, which had one no-vote, this one was unanimous.

As far as the General Budget items are concerned, Bertie County Manager Scott Sauer said highlights include:

Revenues totaling $24.8 million (primarily $9.19 million in ad valorem (property) tax, the county’s share of state sales tax ($2.4 million), motor vehicle taxes ($1.29 million), landfill host fees ($1.75 million), non-emergency transport fees ($1.26 million), and $2.6 million from the School Capital Reserve Fund.

General Fund Appropriations were $24.8 million: $3.027 million in Bertie County Schools Current Expense Fund, $3.15 million in debt service, and $2.88 million for the county’s water districts

In the area of public safety in Appropriations, the budget addresses courthouse security, including renovations ($92,922), almost $2.9 million for the Bertie County Sheriff’s Office, $2.6 million for Emergency Medical Service (plus $1.08 million in Non-Emergency Transport).

For special projects appropriations, a 3 percent contribution will be made to the 401K for supplemental retirement for non-law enforcement employees, and there will be a 2 percent cost of living adjustment for employees effective July 1, 2018.

When the proposed budget was first presented at the regular June 4 Commissioners’ meeting, Sauer made it a point to note that the presentation was a “work in progress”. Sauer further assured everyone that the Board had yet to hammer out any changes, and that there most certainly would be some.

In addition to the proposed budget totaling $24.9 million, an increase of 4.2 percent over the budget for FY 2017-18, it also originally included a five cent tax increase. This coming two years after the county’s tax rate was reduced by one cent from 84 to 83 cents per $100 of valuation, and held steady at that same rate a year ago.

While two days were originally allocated for the Commissioners’ work session, thanks to marathon efforts on many parts, they were able to complete the framework of their budget ordinance in just one.

At the June 5 budget work session, Chairman Ernestine Bazemore polled her fellow Commissioners for their perspective on the budget proposal.

Commissioner Tammy Lee spoke up quickly and shared that a tax rate increase this year was definitely not going to happen.

Vice Chairman Ron Wesson suggested a line-item review of the proposed budget, and examining all of the County Manager’s estimates. Commissioner John Trent suggested starting with the revenue projections in the proposed budget.

One penny on the tax rate yields $126,548, so the initial target for cuts was $632,740, or roughly five times that $126K yield.

Wesson had earlier made a request to county Finance Director William Roberson to run a five year historical report of actual expenditures for each department which Roberson prepared overnight and had ready at the work session. The Commissioners then reviewed twelve pages of revenue line items, and exchanged comments regarding sales tax estimates, excise taxes, restricted & intergovernmental funds, and permits and service fees to begin the review process.

This discussion led to a lengthy examination of the County’s ambulance service both EMS Paramedic and the Non-Emergency Transport programs.

The Commissioners then turned their attention to departmental expenditure trends for each department, making adjustments line by line, reaching a total of $651,324 in cuts, including the $400,000 in EMS Medicaid reimbursement.

EMS Medicaid reimbursements have been very challenging to predict. Bertie County received $205,074 in 2017 and $385,000 in 2018. No estimate for this revenue was incorporated in the proposed budget, and after deliberating about the Medicaid estimates, the Board agreed to budget $400,000 in EMS Medicaid reimbursements.

Lee noted that there were more cuts to be made if there was any chance of providing an across the board increase for county employees, so the budget review continued.

Commissioners worked making additional adjustments, mostly reductions, until a figure of $786,124 was achieved. Bazemore thanked her fellow Board members and county staff for their efforts in reaching a final budget, with no tax increase and a two percent across the board increase for employees.