Gates County budget negotiations continue
Published 6:39 pm Tuesday, June 6, 2023
GATESVILLE – Gates County’s new budget for FY 2023-24 remains as a work in progress, but a couple pieces of that puzzle are now in place.
At their meeting here last week, the Gates County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved several measures related to the budget process.
One was to repurpose the unfilled Assistant County Manager position (the funding of which was included within the current year’s budget) to an Information Technology Director position which will be established in the Finance Department, in the current year (FY23) and advertised in June.
“Practically speaking, the Assistant County Manager position which was established in FY23 is being abolished, and a new position as Information Technology Director is being created in its place. From a budget perspective, this change is a $3,618 reduction in personnel costs,” explained County Manager Scott Sauer.
He added that the transition (reclassification) of the Accounts Payable Specialist occurred in March, when the new title of Deputy Finance Officer and responsibilities were added to the incumbent employee for this position.
“This action (approved vote) by the Board was concurrent with my designation as the County Finance Officer in addition to the role as interim county manager,” Sauer noted. “The former county manager also served as finance officer following the resignation of the Finance Director in December 2022. William Roberson is now in the role of county finance officer, serving as the Finance Director for Gates County.”
The Grant Writer position, which was also established in the current year budget, is being abolished, and a new Accounts Payable Position is being created in the proposed budget plan for the upcoming new fiscal year. The budget impact for this change is a reduction of $9,128 in personnel costs.
Sauer added the Human Resources Director’s position, which is part of the current year’s budget but not yet filled, will remain in the 2023-24 Administration’s budget as part of the County Manager’s Office along with the Payroll/Benefits Coordinator and the Clerk to the Board/Assistant to the County Manager.
Additionally, he recommended the County Planning Director position to be reclassified as the Planning & Economic Development Director for coordination of economic development projects under the direction and guidance of the County Manager.
In another approved motion from the commissioners, they directed Sauer to move $70,581 in the Contingency Fund to the General Fund budget to cover the cost of a two percent cost of living adjustment for county employees.
Each of the commissioners stressed that they would like to see a higher amount for raises, but agreed with Sauer that there are “no easy answers” with a limited amount of revenue to adequately fund all of the different services provided by the county.
The two percent raise is effective July 1.
Sauer also pointed out that media reports from across North Carolina include salary adjustments in other counties ranging from three percent to as high as 14 percent.
He added that to assist in staff recruitment and retention, the Department of Social Services is seeking support for a baseline salary increase of 10 percent for all staff, and larger amounts for social workers and specialized case managers due to expanding case loads and high turnover.
“The [DSS] Director is also seeking support for sign-on bonuses and retention salary adjustments to prevent further turnover within the agency,” Sauer said.
Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies in northeastern North Carolina continue to examine the starting pay for certified officers and compensation structure for each position classification to encourage advancement and retention.
“The Gates County Sheriff’s Office participated in a regional study, recommending a range of salary adjustments averaging an 18% increase across all classifications, with some higher and some lower,” Sauer noted. “After examining the proposed salaries and related fringe benefits, the full implementation cost for the Gates County Sheriff’s Office is estimated at $244,446 and a phased implementation at fifty percent (50%) of the salary increases would cost approximately $121,376 in the first year.”
Sauer said evaluating the sustainability for the proposed increases for law enforcement salaries will require reviewing 4th quarter state sales tax receipts (for April, May, & June), which will be available in mid-October.
“This additional time will allow for implementation of adjustments to be effective, possibly in January, dependent on revenue performance and forecasts, and final approval by the Board of Commissioners,” Sauer said.
For now, the FY 2023-2024 proposed budget includes $3,159,300 for public education (current expense funding). That amount is below the $3,840,520 requested by the Gates County Schools Superintendent. Of that requested increase, Sauer noted that $308,000 is related to state mandated salary and benefit adjustments.
The commissioners and the county school board are expected to meet sometimes this week to continue budget negotiations.
As noted at last week’s commissioners meeting, the FY 2023-2024 proposed budget (General Fund) is recommended by Sauer at $15,063,422. That amount represents an increase of $494,131 or 3.39% above the FY 2022-2023 Budget Ordinance. Sauer did not recommend an increase in the ad valorem taxes (property taxes) which are currently 84 cents (per $100 of property value).
A public hearing on the FY 2023-24 budget is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Wednesday, June 14 at the Historic Courthouse in Gatesville.