Northampton approves new budget

Published 8:38 am Thursday, June 21, 2018

JACKSON – Despite objections from county school representatives during last week’s public hearing, the Northampton Board of Commissioners adopted the FY 2018-19 budget without making any changes at their regular meeting here Monday.

Before the commissioners voted, Assistant County Manager Nathan Pearce presented the budget information to those in attendance.

“The total general fund operating budget is $32,973,679 and reflects an increase of $236,557 or a one percent increase compared to current year budget,” Pearce stated.

Pearce also noted the budget required an appropriation amount close to $2 million from the undesignated fund balance, and the budget would satisfy a debt liquidation schedule of approximately $1.5 million.

As with previous years, the ad valorem tax rate remained the same at $0.92 cents per $100 of assessed value.

“This budget does provide for a five percent cost of living adjustment, merit increases, longevity pay, and Christmas bonuses for employees,” Pearce continued, adding that the county will pay 90 percent of employee health insurance premium costs.

Chairman Robert Carter asked if the Board had any questions, but none were voiced.

Commissioner Chester Deloatch motioned to adopt the budget as presented, and Commissioner Geneva Faulkner seconded. The vote was unanimously in favor.

As previously reported by the News Herald, the new budget reduces funds to the county’s public school system by half a million dollars. Several school representatives, including Superintendent Dr. Monica Smith-Woofter and Assistant Superintendent Doug Miller, spoke during the public hearing last week to urge the commissioners to reconsider the budget cuts.

“If we intend to remove the barriers and challenges that students in poverty face that often impedes their learning, we need adequate funding,” said Dr. Smith-Woofter at last week’s public hearing while addressing the commissioners. “Cutting us by a half-million-dollars, in my eyes, shows that you are not committed to investing in the future of Northampton County schoolchildren.”

Miller also noted at last week’s public hearing that the cuts will “devastate the things we need to do to keep good teachers.”

For the upcoming fiscal year which will begin on July 1, a total of $3,935,000 is allotted to Education. The largest portion of that money ($3 million) is allocated to the school system’s current expense. Another $595,000 will go towards capital outlay.

The current year budget had $3.5 million set aside for current expense, and $695,000 for capital outlay.

Outside of the public school system, portions of the allotted Education money will go to community colleges which provide programs for Northampton County residents. Roanoke-Chowan Community College will receive $30,000 in funds in this year’s budget, a decrease by half from the previous year. In contrast, Halifax Community College will receive $260,000. This is an increase from the previous year’s budget allocation of $30,000.

Public Safety, General Government, and Human Services (Health) are the county departments which received the largest amounts of funding for the new fiscal year.

Public Safety was allocated $9,655,311 with the largest portions of that funding going towards ambulance service ($3.4 million), sheriff ($2.6 million), jail ($1.4 million), and emergency communications ($1 million).

Six new positions of employment—two Deputy Sheriffs and four EMT-Paramedics—are proposed in the Public Safety budget.

General Government received an increase this year by $735,105, bringing their total allocation amount to $4,832,161. The largest portions of that money will go to buildings and grounds ($1 million), tax ($894,716), and finance ($676,149).

The Human Services (Health) department will receive $4,019,209 in funding. The largest portions of that money will be allocated to home health ($1 million), health ($799,532), nurse family partnership ($525,788), and family planning ($246,153).

Additional departments receiving over $1 million in funding include Other Human Services ($2,685,480) and Economic/Physical Development ($1,179,669).

A majority of the county’s revenue is expected to come from ad valorem taxes, totaling $18.4 million. Other sources of revenue include state sales tax ($2.3 million), sales/services ($1.7 million), and Health Department services ($1 million).

The unanimous decision to accept the budget was a stark contrast from the previous year when the proposed budget narrowly passed with a 3-2 vote. At that time, Commissioner Charles Tyner had objected to the proposed budget because the county had not year received their audit report.

The 2018-19 budget will go into effect July 1.