Bertie budget includes fire tax

Published 9:44 am Friday, June 30, 2023

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WINDSOR – Bertie County has a new operating budget in place for FY 2023-24, one that doesn’t include an ad valorem tax increase but will cost the majority of property owners slightly more than they are currently paying.

Bertie’s Commissioners approved a $25,337,699 General Fund budget here Tuesday morning when they reconvened a June 20 regular meeting where the board engaged in discussion over changes to the budget. Those changes came on the heels of a public hearing held June 5 where numerous citizens voiced their support for salary increases for all county employees.

The newly approved budget increases the minimum salary of a county employee to $11 per hour. It also gives a three percent cost of living raise to all county employees, except for EMTs. They (EMTs) – who have a “step scale” salary schedule – will also see a bump in their annual take-home pay based upon their years on the job.

While the current ad valorem tax rate remains at 86.5 cents (per $100 of property value), the new budget does levy a newly approved fire district tax of nearly four cents (0.03762) per $100 of the appraised value of real, personal, public service, and motor vehicle property. The fire protection service tax district covers all unincorporated areas of Bertie County and the towns of Askewville, Aulander, Colerain, Kelford, Lewiston Woodville, Powellsville, and Roxobel. The Town of Windsor is not a part of the fire service district.

Money generated by the fire tax will replace the $30,000 that Bertie local government currently appropriates to each of the 11 rural fire departments in the county. The fire tax is expected to generate $360,000 in annual revenue, which will be divided among the 11 rural fire departments.

Bertie’s new General Fund budget will rely heavily on taxes. Ad valorem taxes ($11,004,585) comprise nearly 45 percent of the expected revenue. The county’s share of state sales tax ($3,749,320) and motor vehicle taxes ($1,755,000) also add greatly to the bottom line.

Bertie also generates revenue from medical service fees ($1,142,433) and another $2,200,000 by serving as the host county for a regional landfill.

The new budget does not include an infusion of funds from the General Fund Balance as county officials continue their efforts to increase that pot of money.

Emergency Medical Services ($3,486,206), Bertie County Public Schools ($3,027,671), Sheriff’s Office ($2,910,007), transfers to Social Services ($1,712,755) and Public Buildings & Grounds ($1,060,325) are the leading recipients of taxpayer money.

Upon a motion from Commissioner John Trent and a second by Commissioner Ron Roberson, the FY 2023-24 budget ordinance was approved by a 5-0 vote.

The board then held a 50-minute closed session. Upon re-entering open session, the commissioners approved a motion that eliminated overtime pay for department heads and/or exempt employees. The vote was 3-1 to approve the motion. Commissioner Corey Ballance Sr. was the lone “no” vote while Roberson recused himself from voting on the measure.

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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