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Hertford County budget takes one final step

WINTON – A proposed $26.78 million General Fund operating budget for Hertford County local government is one meeting away from becoming effective.

At their meeting here last week, the county’s Board of Commissioners held a required public hearing on the FY 2020-21 budget. No member of the public chose to speak for or against the proposal.

David Cotton, the county’s Interim Manager, briefly addressed the proposed budget, one that he was able to build without raising property taxes. That tax rate remains at 84 cents per $100 of property value.

“All revenues and expenditures are balanced,” said Cotton. “We have realized some late [financial] discoveries which will change some numbers slightly, but the General Fund portion of the budget remains at a proposed $26,782,157 while the overall budget, to include all proprietary funds such as solid waste, the two water districts, and the Tunis Sewer District, remains at $30,183,614.”

Cotton said those late discoveries will help lessen the amount of Fund Balance needed to balance the bottom line.

He added that the proposed new budget also reflects a direction from the commissioners to launch a more aggressive approach to collect back taxes.

“The budget shows $600,000 as the amount we’re aiming at to collect in back taxes, which is $200,000 more than what was budgeted in the current year,” Cotton stated.

He noted there is in excess of $1.25 million of back taxes currently on the books. That figure represents 10 years of uncollected taxes.

“I don’t think that aiming to collect $600,000 is an overreach; hopefully it’s an under reach,” Cotton stressed to the board. “We will deploy a number of different strategies to collect back taxes.”

The commissioners agreed to hold a special meeting at 9 a.m. on Thursday, June 25 where they are expected to approve the 2020-21 budget.

Later in the meeting, Cotton informed the board that revenue the county receives from state sales tax appears to be higher than anticipated. In April, he said that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic would have a negative effect on sales tax.

“Our sales tax numbers are defying all logic; they actually came in stronger than the preceding month when the [COVID-19] shutdown began,” Cotton said. “They are actually stronger than a year ago at this time. I’ll have to eat crow on that. Our numbers are trending higher than projected. I was projecting a 25 percent decrease.”

However, he still took a cautious approach to the coming few months.

“I still think we’ll experience a dip [in state sales tax revenue],” Cotton maintained.

He added some more good news, saying that the state had sent Hertford County a check in the amount of $635,000 as part of a COVID-19 relief package.

“I believe these funds are a part of a package that we will have to share with the municipalities in the county,” Cotton said. “I’ll need to devise a sharing formula.”

The R-C News-Herald reached out to Cotton for additional information on how that money will be divided between the county and the local towns.

“Prior to a disbursement formula being finalized, I plan to meet with our municipal partners to solicit their input and then seek final approval from the Commissioners. I plan to contact the municipalities in early July,” he said.

 

 

 

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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