HC budget built without increasing property taxes

Published 5:16 pm Friday, May 19, 2023

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WINTON – The tax base is growing, and so is what Hertford County Manager David Cotton proposes to spend over the course of the 2023-24 fiscal year.

But what is not on the rise are the property taxes that provide the largest share of revenue for the budget.

At their scheduled meeting here Monday night, the Hertford County Board of Commissioners read through Cotton’s proposed FY 2023-24 budget. The most anticipated element of any budget proposal is the ad valorem tax rate. That number remains unchanged at 84 cents (per $100 of value).

“This budget is still in the making,” Cotton told the board. “It’s nearly finalized; we still have one more budget workshop, which will take place on June 5 just after we hold a public hearing on the draft.”

Cotton proudly announced that the county is experiencing growth in its ad valorem tax revenue, which he said has increased four percent over the past three years. He added that state sales tax dollars coming back to Hertford County are also on the rise during the past few years.

The proposed $28,809,619 General Fund budget is approximately $1 million higher than the current year. Cotton said the increase is primarily attributed to Restricted Intergovernmental and miscellaneous revenues. On the expenditure side of those revenue increases, Cotton noted it will cover the second phase of strategic salary adjustments, a cost of living adjustment for all other staff, and economic development initiatives.

“The increase is further attributable to the addition of five Income Maintenance Caseworkers for our Department of Social Services with those new positions directly correlated with Medicaid expansion,” Cotton said.

He added that the federal government will cover the lion’s share of the added costs of those five new positions.

As has been the norm from previous budgets, Cotton observed that Public Safety (28.47%), Education (21.80%) and Human Services (21.04%) remain as the top three recipients of local taxpayer money, per the wishes of the commissioners. In actual dollars, Cotton is proposing $8,057,297 for Public Safety; $5,998,381 for Human Services; and $5,271,598 for Education, of which the county’s public schools will receive $4,052,063 if the new budget is approved.

The main sources of revenue for the FY 2023-24 budget are ad valorem taxes ($13.4 million), sales and use taxes ($6.5 million), restricted intergovernmental funds ($3.34 million), and vehicle taxes ($1.88 million).

To help balance the bottom line, Cotton’s proposal also appropriates nearly $1.9 million of the county’s healthy fund balance. That pot of money has grown from $8.5 million in 2012 to $16 million last year. As a percentage of its expenditures, the county’s Fund Balance is hovering around the 27 percent mark, an increase from 18 percent in 2012.

“As with previous fiscal years, the financial stability and budgetary solvency for FY 2023-24 has been secured through the board of commissioners’ deliberate and diligent consideration of the budget plan as well as their wisdom in prioritizing and aligning the finite resources with the competing demands of the county’s service portfolio,” Cotton stated in his budget message.

Adding in the Enterprise (proprietary) funds – which includes the Northern and Southern Rural Water Districts, the Tunis Wastewater District, and Solid Waste – the total budget is proposed at $33,741,352.

The FY 2023-24 budget, which may include changes following the public hearing and commissioners’ workshop on June 5, is scheduled to be adopted at the June 19 meeting of the board.

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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