Questions arise regarding Gates County’s proposed budget

Published 4:57 pm Friday, May 27, 2022

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GATESVILLE – John Taylor Kittrell isn’t a big fan of Gates County’s proposed budget for the upcoming new fiscal year.

That budget, as proposed by County Manager Tim Wilson, contains a two-cent increase in property tax, raising the current rate to 81 cents per $100 of value.

Kittrell was the only county citizen to speak at last week’s budget public hearing, which was part of the regularly scheduled meeting of the Gates County Board of Commissioners. He observed the new proposal is 12.7 percent ($1.6 million) higher than the current FY 2021-22 budget and inquired as to where the additional revenue is coming from.

“Is it sustainable; that’s the key thing,” he asked. “What happens next year, and the next year, and the next year?”

Kittrell pointed to a bleak financial picture nationally.

“It doesn’t take much to figure out that a recession is looming,” he said. “We’ve got crazy inflation right now.”

Kittrell noted the state sales tax increases to Gates County over the past couple of years are linked to, “all this money flowing out of the federal government into people’s pockets and then they go on Amazon and other online [shopping] sites. What’s going to happen in a recession? I can’t believe that we’re going to see the sales tax revenue that we’re seeing right now. The money is going to dry up. The federal government can’t keep spending money like they have.”

Kittrell said Wilson’s budget message referenced that no monies were used from the unassigned fund balance.

“But yet on page eight [of the proposed budget] there is $887,353 from appropriated fund balance….I’m a little bit confused about that,” he said. “I’m even more confused about basically blaming the sheriff’s department for 1.2 cents of [new] property tax increase. What’s that come to, $125,000, but the budget increase is $1.6 million.”

Kittrell said there are other county departments receiving more money than the sheriff’s office in the new budget.

“EMS, administration and finance, Emergency Management are all getting more,” he said. “To blame one department doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”

He also questioned the budget outlay for purchasing new vehicles for the sheriff’s office.

“You need to fund two cars every year; if you don’t then you build up the number of worn out cars and you’ve got to replace four, five or six all in the same year,” Kittrell suggested.

Additionally, Kittrell said, “it doesn’t look good for the county employees to get a five percent pay raise and the EMS [staff] get a 10 percent increase [as proposed in the budget]. I’ve heard some grumblings about that.”

He also referenced that of the $1.6 million increase in the budget, none of it was going to help the school system.

“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done on this budget before it’s approved,” Kittrell concluded.

At the close of the public hearing, Commission Chair Althea Riddick addressed the need to schedule a special meeting or work session regarding the proposed new budget.

“We need to go back into the budget and make some adjustments before we can bring it back for approval,” Riddick said. “We’ve heard the comments about the budget and took notes. We will go back into the budget and make necessary adjustments. We will work with our department heads about those adjustments.”

Riddick called this a “challenging budget year.”

“Some of the things we had to do is because of a number of years without doing anything [to address those needs],” she stressed. “We’re going to balance this budget, and there’s going to be some pain in that.”

The commissioners have until June 30 to approve the FY 2022-23 budget, which takes effect July 1.

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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