No tax hike proposed in Bertie budget

Published 4:59 pm Friday, May 27, 2022

WINDSOR – Bertie County local government’s proposed operating budget for FY 2022-23 reflects the continuation of an effort to rebound financially.

County Manager Juan Vaughan II has released his proposed budget for the new fiscal year that begins July 1. That proposal is $24,307,447 in the General Fund, which is $160,517 (less than one percent) above the original budget ordinance for the current year.

In order to balance the budget, Vaughan stressed that he didn’t appropriate any money from the county’s General Fund balance nor is there an increase in the ad valorem tax rate, which remains at 86.5 cents per $100 of property value.

Vaughan recommends a two percent cost of living adjustment, across the board, for all county employees. If approved by the commissioners, the pay hike will become effective July 1.

The key to Vaughan’s proposal is that it does not require an appropriation from the General Fund balance. That pool of money was used heavily over a period of four years: $1.85 million in 2017; $2.02 million in 2018; $2.37 million in 2019; and $1.90 million in 2020. That led to the county’s fund balance available for appropriation to fall dangerously low, a mere 1.6 percent, far below the state’s minimum requirement of 8 percent.

The practice of using General Fund balance to balance the budget ended in 2021. Since that time, the fund balance available for appropriation has risen to 6.32 percent.

“Strengthening our fund balance and financial position remains top priority along with providing quality services to the citizens of Bertie County,” Vaughan said in his budget message.

The major sources of revenue for the new budget will come from ad valorem taxes ($10.6 million), state taxes ($3.51 million), landfill fees ($2.11 million), and motor vehicle taxes ($1.68 million).

The lion’s share of the revenue will go to Emergency Medical Services ($3.07 million), Bertie Public Schools and the Sheriff’s Office ($3.02 million each), DSS ($1.55 million), and Bertie-Martin Regional Jail ($1.1 million).

The budget plan also includes the usual General Fund appropriation of $30,000 to each of the 12 fire departments in Bertie County. Vaughan stated that during the upcoming fiscal year, the commissioners plan to decide among the alternative funding options suggested in the recently conducted fire study that will best meet the needs of Bertie County residents.

Capital projects that are proposed for the upcoming fiscal year with the use of American Rescue Plan funds include matching funds for the broadband expansion grant, grants anticipated for the Tall Glass of Water project, a firewall (IT), communications tower repair, additional funds needed for the Animal Shelter, and an ambulance remount (EMS).

The commissioners were slated to conduct budget workshops earlier this week. A public hearing for the FY2022-23 budget will be held during the board’s regularly scheduled meeting on June 6.

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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