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Hertford County budget approved with no tax hike

WINTON – Despite facing a near $200,000 loss in tax base due to lower property values, the Hertford County Board of Commissioners opted to hold the ad valorem tax rate the same at 84 cents per $100 of value.

However, there was an approved, per household increase of $30 annually in the Solid Waste fee. That amount, which is included as part of the yearly property tax statement, is now $180.

Those decisions came Wednesday morning when the commissioners reconvened their June 17 regular meeting for the purpose of passing final judgment on the county’s operating budget for 2019-20. That newly approved budget becomes effective Monday (July 1).

“I can say that during my 10 years as a commissioner, this has been the most challenging year, by far, to put together a budget,” said Bill Mitchell. “I’m proud of some of the things we were able to accomplish this year in our budget. However, I do still have some heartburn as it relates to not taking care of our senior (level) management in this budget and I would like the record to reflect that.”

Hertford County Manager Loria Williams said the new budget is slightly higher than its predecessor by roughly $900,000.

“The commissioners worked hard to not raise the tax rate,” she stressed. “They made some significant adjustments, some downward adjustments, to keep the tax rate at 84 cents. But our Solid Waste fee is increasing from an annual fee of $150 per household to $180 per household.”

Williams noted during her annual budget message, delivered at the May 6 meeting of the board, that the octennial reappraisal of all real property in Hertford County revealed a loss of overall value (compared to the last reappraisal performed in 2012). Figuring the current value (as of July 1 of last year) plus an average growth factor (improvements made since the last reappraisal), she came up with an 88-cent “revenue neutral” tax rate.

However, after several budget workshops conducted by the commissioners, the county manager, and the department heads of all branches of local county government, a decision was reached to hold the tax rate at 84 cents.

The balanced budget for FY 2019-20 is $25.9 million for the General Fund ($34.1 million overall upon including the likes of $4.76 million for Schools Capital Outlay and a combined $2.9 million for the two Rural Water Districts, Tunis Sewer District, and Solid Waste Operations).

Gaining the lion’s share of the General Fund’s expenditures is Public Safety ($7.26 million). The majority of that funding is $2.17 million for the Sheriff’s Office, $2.06 million to operate the Jail, and $1.39 million for Emergency Medical Services.

Human Services was awarded $5.56 million in the newly adopted budget. Nearly $4 million of those funds will be used for the Department of Social Services.

Public education will use $5.44 million of taxpayer dollars: $4.29 million for current expense of Hertford County Public Schools, and a combined $1.07 million for Roanoke-Chowan Community College (current expense plus capital outlay).

General Government will receive $4.52 million. Approximately 25 percent of that funding ($1.01 million) is for public buildings and maintenance.

Ad valorem taxes ($12.3 million) accounts for the biggest amount of revenue to fund the budget. Other major sources of revenue include sales tax ($5.04 million), restricted intergovernmental funds for DSS ($2.59 million), vehicle taxes ($1.26 million), and sales and services ($1.6 million).

The budget was balanced by using $1.25 million of the county’s General Fund Balance.

As far as to the decision to raise the Solid Waste fee, Williams said that was due to the service operating with an annual deficit.

“The Solid Waste budget has been using its own fund balance to balance itself over the past years,” Williams said.

She added that in exchange for increasing the per household fee by $30 annually, the commissioners put a plan in place that will allow all of the county’s trash drop-off sites to be open six days a week.

“We had shortened the number of days that those sites were operational in an effort to cut back on operating costs,” Williams said.

The six-day schedule for the trash drop-off sites begins Monday, July 1.

On a motion from John Horton and a second from Leroy Douglas, the FY 2019-20 budget was approved without objection.

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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