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Northampton FY22 budget proposal includes tax decrease

JACKSON – For the third year in a row, the Northampton County budget proposal will recommend a half-cent decrease in ad valorem taxes for county citizens.

The Board of Commissioners held a budget workshop here on May 19 to go over the proposal for the upcoming fiscal year and to discuss the details before a public hearing is held next month. Finance Officer Tameka Green presented the proposal to the board Wednesday evening, detailing what’s different and what’s staying the same for the upcoming fiscal year.

For FY22, which will begin on July 1, the total recommended General Fund budget is $29,855,515, which is an increase of over $1.9 million from the FY21 budget.

Over 70 percent of the county’s revenue is expected to come from ad valorem taxes. As in previous years, the budget proposal includes a half-cent reduction in the ad valorem tax rate, which will bring the rate to $0.905 per $100 of property valuation. At that new rate, the estimated total of ad valorem tax revenue for the county will be $21,413,233, which is an increase from the current fiscal year.

Green added that sales tax is projected to bring in nine percent of FY22 General Fund revenues, an estimated total of $2.6 million. That number is almost $600,000 lower than the current budget, Green explained, because of a slight decrease in sales tax growth over the last eight months.

Expenditures in the budget proposal were prioritized in four strategic areas, including operational control, citizen quality of life, education, and community and economic development/growth.

In the operational control category, Green highlighted funds that were budgeted for safety vehicle fleet replacements and a critical replacement of the phone system. Those funds include $144,000 for new sheriff office vehicles and $40,000 as a second-year installment to replace the current phone system.

The quality of life expenditures include contributions to the NC Forestry Service ($114,659), local volunteer rescue squads ($25,000), Choanoke Area Development Association ($13,000), and Choanoke Public Transportation Authority ($5,000).

Board Chair Charles Tyner, who is also currently serving as the Interim County Manager, noted that the Forestry Service contribution is slightly increased compared to the current year.

“Forestry land is important to us,” he said, mentioning that Northampton County has the largest forestry association in the state.

Green continued her presentation, reporting that the recommended allocation for Northampton County Schools is $4.2 million, a slight increase from the $4 million they received in the FY21 budget.

The majority of that $4.2 million allocation is for the school system’s current expense ($3.78 million). The recommendation for capital outlay is an increase to $453,000, and the fines and forfeitures allocation will decrease slightly to $50,000.

For the two community colleges which serve Northampton County citizens, the budget proposal recommends the same amount for Halifax Community College ($97,000) and an approximately $4,000 reduction for Roanoke Chowan Community College ($25,949) by request.

At the workshop meeting, Tyner said the figures for the community colleges may increase, but he didn’t provide any specific numbers yet.

For community and economic development/growth, Green reported an increase in funding for Economic Development Non-Departmental Capital Outlay Expense ($957,500). She also explained that the $9,000 contribution for main street revitalization projects, something that was first implemented last year, will be allocated again this year.

In her presentation, Green said the proposed budget will not add any new positions, maintaining a total of 272 full-time employees. Merit pay and longevity pay will continue to be fully funded, and there is a recommendation for a one-time (non-permanent) two percent bonus for entitled employees.

“We’ve got the best employees in the world,” Tyner said. “They take their job seriously.”

“And next year there’s going to be a big change because we did a [pay scale] study,” he continued, explaining that they wanted to make sure the employees are receiving what they deserve.

In the water and sewer enterprise fund, there were no proposed increases in fees, though Tyner said there will be an increase in the future once the Phase Six water expansion project gets underway.

“What we’re waiting for is USDA,” he explained. “Once they come in and start on Phase Six, then they’ll tell us what our water rates will be. Looking at it now, they said they might go up like a dollar or dollar and a half.”

“You’ve got to do it to upkeep the lines, you’ve got to upkeep the water tanks, you’ve got to upkeep the entire system,” Tyner continued.

Following Green’s presentation, the board discussed the proposal and asked a few clarification questions. They didn’t make any major changes to what was already proposed.

Tyner mentioned that they’re looking into getting as many state and federal grants as possible to fund several county projects, including the goal to build a new county courthouse which is their “first priority” to work on.

“Unlike it’s been in the past, we’ll be talking budget talk all year long. This is a beginning for us for what we really have to do in Northampton County,” Tyner concluded.

The budget proposal is available for the public to view in the clerk’s office of the Northampton County Administration Building or online at http://www.northamptonnc.com

A public hearing for the budget is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 3 at the Commissioners’ Meeting Room, 9495 NC Hwy 305, Jackson. The meeting is open for in-person attendance but masks are required.