Proposed Northampton budget lowers property taxes

Published 5:14 pm Tuesday, May 24, 2022

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JACKSON – Continuing with the trend from prior years, Northampton County’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2022-2023 (FY23) currently includes a half-cent decrease in ad valorem taxes.

County Manager Julian Phillips presented the revised proposal at a budget workshop session held here before the Board of Commissioners’ regular meeting on May 16.

“The budget is a balanced budget. I believe it’s a good budget,” Phillips said.

The total proposed operating budget will be $38,627,503 which is an increase of over $1.9 million from FY22. Phillips also noted that the fund balance appropriation to balance the budget will be the same as the appropriation for FY22.

The majority of county revenues are expected to come from ad valorem taxes. In his presentation, Phillips explained that the tax revenue projections were based on a 95 percent tax collection rate, but according to the most recent audit of county finances, the collection rate was above 96 percent in FY22.

The projected total for ad valorem tax revenue in the budget proposal is $19,665,509. That is based on a half-cent decrease, bringing the rate to $0.90 per $100 of property valuation. When including projections for prior year tax collections, DMV motor vehicle collections, and other tax revenues in the same category, the total projected ad valorem revenue will be $22,417,453.

That’s an increase from the $21.4 million total in the FY22 budget.

Sales tax revenue, the second-largest revenue source for the county, is estimated to total a little over $2.9 million in FY23.

The county’s largest expenditures are expected to come a handful of different departments, including public safety ($11.6 million), general government ($5.5 million), education ($4.3 million), and human services – health ($3.7 million).

Phillips also addressed pay raises during his budget presentation. Earlier this year, the commissioners partially implemented an updated pay plan based on a pay study conducted by the MAPS Group. That ‘Phase I’ of the plan brought minimum wage for county employees up to $15 per hour, but also created a problem with compression, which is when long-term employees and brand-new employees are too close together in the pay range.

At a meeting in April, some members of the Northampton County’s Department of Social Services spoke to the commissioners to raise concerns about compression after the pay increase was implemented.

During the May 16 workshop session, Phillips recommended implementing ‘Phase II’ in the FY23 budget as well as a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). And for the approximately 30 positions most impacted by compression during Phase I, Phillips recommended an additional $1,000 adjustment to help widen the gap.

He said they will look at the numbers again next year to see if the county will be able to implement a ‘Phase III’ for FY24.

Other highlights from Phillips’ presentation included the possibility to finance a new animal shelter, purchasing or leasing a few new vehicles, adding two new positions, and slightly increasing allocations to CPTA, CADA, and the forestry service. He also mentioned that the proposed budget slightly decreases the amount of funds set aside for contingency.

Following Phillips’ presentation, the commissioners discussed changes made from the previous proposal and asked a few questions to make sure everything was included. Commissioner Nicole Boone inquired about financing a new building at the landfill to replace the current one, and Commissioner Joyce Buffaloe wanted to make sure any necessary water/sewer repairs – identified during a previous asset inventory assessment – were included in the budget.

Phillips replied that he’d check into those departments for more information.

Board Chair Charles Tyner and Commissioner Geneva Faulkner briefly discussed the feasibility of the half-cent tax decrease, both agreeing that it should be included in the budget for FY23.

Adjustments can be made to the budget before it is adopted by the Board of Commissioners, which is expected to take place before the new fiscal year starts on July 1.

The proposed budget ordinance is available for the public to view at or in the office of Northampton County’s Clerk to the Board. A public hearing is scheduled to be held during the commissioners’ meeting on Monday, June 20 to receive input from citizens.