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Northampton approves new budget

JACKSON – “We just want to do all we can for the citizens in our county.”

That’s one of the things Northampton Board of Commissioners Chair Charles Tyner said at their special meeting here June 29 after the Board unanimously adopted the budget for the new fiscal year.

Thanking both the Finance Department and County Manager Charles Jackson for their hard work on developing the FY21 budget, Tyner said he was glad to see several different things included such as funds for nonprofit support and economic development.

“This budget will decrease our tax by half a cent. Some of you say it’s not much, but it’s more than it was in the past,” he also noted.

As presented by Jackson in his budget proposal earlier in June, the FY21 budget includes a half cent reduction in ad valorem taxes, bringing the tax rate to $0.91 per $100 of property value. This follows a half cent reduction from the previous year as well.

The county will operate on a total budget of $34,138,435 which is an increase of over $1.4 million from FY20. A total of $27.9 million of that money will be in the General Fund budget.

As in previous years, the majority of the county’s revenue is expected to come from ad valorem taxes, totaling $17,804,408. That’s down $1.07 million from the previous year. Other major sources of revenue include Sales Tax ($3.2 million), Sales & Services ($2.1 million), and Health Revenue ($940,505). Compared to FY20, both Sales Tax and Sales & Services are both expected to bring in more money than before, while Health Revenues are expected to drop.

For expenditures, the departments receiving the largest allocations include Public Safety, General Government, Education, Human Services (Health), Human Services (Other), and Economic/Physical Development.

With an increase of $510,000 from the previous year, Public Safety will receive the most funding at $10,927,455. The largest portions of these funds will go towards ambulance service ($3.9 million), sheriff ($3.2 million), jail ($1.8 million), and emergency communications ($1.8 million).

Public Safety allocations also include items such as contributions to local rescue squads and funding for the regional airports and CPTA. Jackson reported in his budget proposal presentation in early June that these things fall under the category of “citizen quality of life” which is one of four key funding priorities for this fiscal year.

General Government received a slight increase in funding this year, bring their total allocation to $4,555,883. The areas which will gain the biggest portion of these funds include buildings and grounds ($1.04 million), finance ($673,449), and tax ($568,015). Each of these allocations are slightly lower than they received in FY20.

Funding for Education was almost exactly the same amount as the previous year, totaling $4,037,000. The bulk of that allocation ($3.5 million) will go to Current Expense for Northampton County Schools, the same amount as FY20 despite the district’s request of $4 million for current expense. The school district will also receive $350,000 for Capital Outlay.

Halifax Community College and Roanoke-Chowan Community College, which both serve students in Northampton County, had no change in funding amounts from the previous year. HCC was allocated $97,000 and RCCC received $30,000.

Approximately $492,000 was cut from the Human Services (Health) funding for FY21, bringing the total allocation to $3,422,178. Home health ($1 million), health ($943,308), environmental health ($247,707), family planning ($219,590), and school nursing funding ($150,000) are the areas which will receive the most funding.

Human Services (Other) was allocated $1,681,756 for this fiscal year, a drop from the $2.2 million in FY20. The bulk of that allocation went to the county’s Department of Social Services (DSS).

One major change in the Human Services (Other) category from the previous year is the absence of funding for the Office of Aging. According to Jackson’s proposal, the county is planning to restructure the Office on Aging, and all of its services were transferred to DSS for FY21. It also noted that the county will receive $305,000 in Home and Community Care Block Grant funds to provide services such as nutrition, transportation, adult day care, and more.

Economic/Physical Development received an increase in funding this fiscal year, bringing its total to $1,053,392.

One new thing included in the budget this year is money allocated for “main street improvements” in each of the county’s municipalities. They’ll receive $1,000 each to invest in ways to fix up what is often the busiest part of their towns.

A difference in the budget from the previous year, however, is that there’s no cost of living raise for county employees due to budget constraints stemming from the COVID crisis. Merit and longevity pay will still be funded, and Jackson did recommend funding for a compensation study—the first in almost 20 years—to determine competitive pay policies for employees going forward.

No citizens chose to submit comments on the budget at the public hearing which was held on June 15.

At the June 29 meeting, there was no discussion on the budget amongst the Board after Tyner’s praise for the hard work which went into getting everything together. Commissioner Joyce Buffaloe provided the motion to approve, Commissioner Kelvin Edwards seconded, and the vote passed unanimously.

The new budget went into effect on July 1.