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Gates County budget approved

GATESVILLE – Gates County’s operating budget for 2021-22 is approved for implementation effective July 1.

In a 4-1 vote, the county’s Board of Commissioners approved the over $17,041,678 operating budget for the next 12 months. Of that amount, $12,665,218 is in the General Fund.

As he noted last month, County Manager Tim Wilson said the budget maintains the current property tax rate at 79 cents per $100 of value. It also includes a four percent cost of living increase for the county’s local government employees.

No fund balance was needed to balance the bottom line of the new budget.

“There are no new taxes no new fees and there are no increases in existing fees or taxes,” Wilson told the board last week. “All services provided by the county will remain the same.”

The budget approval also added one new employment position in the Finance Department as well as a part-time E-911 dispatcher and part-time help for the Register of Deeds Office.

“I offer praise for our interim county manager, our county manager, all department heads, and our Finance Department for putting together a fair and balanced budget,” stated Commissioner Ray Freeman. “There were a few things I had issues with, but those were worked out during our [budget] workshops. The main thing is that we didn’t have to raise taxes.”

“It’s a well-rounded budget; you can tell that much work was put into it,” noted Commissioner Linda Hofler. “It does give our staff a salary increase and addresses some staffing concerns. It does maintain our current level of service without raising taxes. This budget also fills an unfunded liability by putting $100,000 aside for retirement insurance.”

Commissioner Jonathan Jones inquired about the contingency fund ($62,008) and how that money can be expended.

“That doesn’t mean that money has to be spent,” said Commission Vice Chairman Jack Owens. “And it won’t be spent if the five of us can’t agree on how to spend it.”

Jones said he had an issue with a $60,000 discretionary fund requested by Wilson from which a portion of that money would be used for an organizational staffing and compensation study.

“I spoke with an HR (Human Resources) person in an adjoining county and was told that a compensation study was sent in every year as required by the [North Carolina] School of Government,” Jones stated before receiving confirmation that Gates County performs this annual task as well. “I wholeheartedly believe that a salary study is not needed. I am in favor of the technology study.”

Hofler motioned to accept the budget as presented. Freeman offered a second and the motion passed with a 4-1 vote. Jones cast the lone dissenting vote.

“I voted against the budget solely because of the request from the County Manager that a discretionary fund be set up in the amount of $60,060,” Jones later told the Gates County Index. “The purposes of some of these funds were to be used for an organizational staffing and compensation study and an organizational technology study.”

Jones added that upon learning the salary information can be received for free from the School of Government, it made no sense to have an outside compensation study done when it could be done by staff already on the payroll.

“In regards to the organizational staffing study, I do not feel it is a good use of taxpayers money to do this when our County Manager has only been on the job less than one and a half months,” Jones added. “He is just learning the role of being a County Manager in North Carolina and learning how Gates County government operates. I was ok with the organizational technology study as it is important we keep our county government and county citizens information as safe and secure as we can.

“I have and will continue to make sure taxpayers money is spent wisely and will question spending I believe is wasteful,” Jones concluded.

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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