New Hertford County budget proposes pay hikes

Published 5:32 pm Friday, June 10, 2022

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WINTON – Hertford County’s local government employees are keeping their fingers crossed for the approval of the county’s proposed operating budget for Fiscal Year 2022-23.

Among the budget recommendations made by County Manager David Cotton are cost of living raises for all employees as well as proposed increases in the local stipend paid by the county to classified employees of the public school system. His proposal also raises the minimum wage of county employees to $15 per hour.

Cotton made his budget presentation as part of a public hearing held at Monday’s regularly scheduled meeting of the Hertford County Board of Commissioners. He said that draft budget was built through meetings with local government department heads as well as during workshops conducted by the board of commissioners.

Cotton has projected a General Fund budget of $27.83 million for FY22-23. The total budget, to include the Enterprise Fund, is $31.95 million.

The General Fund budget is $672,000 higher than the current year budget.

Cotton stressed that 87 percent of the county’s total budget is dedicated to mandated programs/services and to cover annual debt.

“That only leaves 13 percent of our revenue for discretionary, non-mandated program funding,” Cotton noted.

Cotton said his draft budget does not recommend a tax increase, which will be maintained at 84 cents (per $100 of property value). It also includes a $62,500 increase in local funding for Hertford County Public Schools. He stated that increase specifically targets classified employees of the school system in an effort to raise their locally funded salary stipend from one to two percent. He is asking the Hertford County School Board to match that $62,500 to increase the supplement to three percent.

Cotton’s draft budget also includes a $50,000 increase for the local supplement awarded to the president of Roanoke-Chowan Community College.

Based on the guidance of the commissioners, Cotton said his new budget includes “strategic salary adjustments” that will raise the minimum starting salary of county employees to $15 per hour (or $30,600 annually).

For all department directors making $55,000 annually or less, he is recommending a 10 percent increase in salary. For all other staff, with the exception of those targeted in the strategic salary adjustments, he proposes a three percent raise in their annual salaries.

Additionally, Cotton is recommending six new hires: Income Maintenance Worker II (for DSS), Volunteer & Medical Transportation Coordinator (Office of Aging), two Deputy Investigators (for the Sheriff’s Office, using funds secured through the NC General Assembly), and two paramedics (for Emergency Medical Services).

The proposed budget also includes the installation of a self-contained breathing apparatus bottle filling station (for the air packs used by the county’s fire departments) in Ahoskie.

“That station will service all of our fire departments in the county,” Cotton said.

He also is recommending to double the current stipends paid per meeting for those serving on county commissioner-appointed boards and committees. In most instances, the members of those boards/committees are currently paid $25 per meeting.

As for capital projects, Cotton said one of the main objectives is to move EMS to a paramedic level of service.

He added there are no fee increases in FY22-23 budget for the Enterprise Fund (Solid Waste, Northern & Southern Rural Water Districts, and the Tunis Rural Wastewater District).

As is always the case, the lion’s share of the county’s revenue comes through taxes. Ad valorem (property) taxes – projected at $13.05 million for FY22-23 – comprise nearly one-half (47%) of the county’s General Fund. Meanwhile, state sales and use tax (projected at $5.74 million) accounts for nearly 21 percent of the county’s revenue.

“Combined, taxes account for almost 68 percent of our revenue,” Cotton said.

Expenditures, as expected, are dominated by three departments: public safety, education (plus debt service on the new Ahoskie Elementary School), and human services. They will be budgeted a combined $20.18 million, which represents 72.5 percent of the General Fund budget.

The commissioners were scheduled to conduct a budget workshop following Monday morning’s regular meeting. Barring any major changes, the new budget is slated to be adopted at the board’s next regularly scheduled meeting, set for 7 p.m. on Monday, June 21. The new budget becomes effective 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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