County passes $54 million budgetPublished 7:44pm Tuesday, June 3, 2014
2014-15 General Fund Budget in the amount of $54,084,661 is distributed among the following functional areas as indicated:
General Government $ 5,498,293
Public Safety $ 8,622,822
Economic and Physical Development $ 765,025
Human Services $16,117,936
Culture and Recreation $ 337,873
Debt Service $ 2,768,502
Solid Waste $ 3,223,488
Contingency/Transfers $ 30,000
In a 5-2 vote Monday night, Beaufort County Commissioners passed the 2014-15 budget with little fanfare.
Commissioners Stan Deatherage and Hood Richardson were the two dissenting votes.
A few were made to the county manager’s recommended budget — changes that ultimately reduced the final budget by $47,091. An almost $14,000 reduction was made to Beaufort County School’s capitol outlay that funds repairs to existing school structures, that was decided at the Commissioners’ first workshop. In exchange for a new fulltime telecommunicator’s position with E911, previously budgeted overtime pay was reduced by $22,500, and a part-time position eliminated. Approval for a full-time hire at the Beaufort County Board of Elections was offset by a $40,074 reduction in various line items in the BOE budget.
The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, which had asked the county to continue funding its drug diversion officer position, was given leave to do so, in a roundabout way. At the suggestion of Commissioner Gary Brinn, the board voted, 7-0, to allow the position to remain, however, it would mean eliminating one of five positions currently available in the sheriff’s office ranks.
Jim Chrisman, assistant county manager, stressed the fact that no new taxes or fees related to the county’s General Fund are included in the 2014-15 budget. The property tax rate of 53 cents per $100 remains the same, as does a solid waste fee of $90 per year. Tax rates for fire and rescue services throughout county remain at the previous year’s levels, as well.
The only increases that Beaufort County residents are likely to see in the coming year are those assigned to water districts. Starting July 1, residents and commercial users in Water District 1, Washington Township, can expect a 2-percent increase; Water District IV, Bath Township, will see a 1.75-percent increase; and water districts III, V and VI, serving Long Acre East, Pantego and Chocowinity townships, will undergo a 1.25-percent increase. The water districts are part of an entirely separate fund, the Enterprise Fund, and each district must be self-sufficient, according to Chrisman.
“The residents of those districts voted to set that up years ago, as well as set up a tax authority,” Chrisman said.
The disparity in percentage between the water districts is influenced by a variety of factors: the number of customers, the size of the district and geography among them, he said.
Chrisman said this budget process was relatively uneventful, as there were no tax or fee increases, nor were services cut.
“I would consider this a continuation budget with just a few expansion items addressed last night,” he said. “There wasn’t a lot of deviations in revenue.”
Richardson said he opted not to vote for the budget for several reasons, which he read aloud before the vote. Some of his reasoning included overstaffing was not addressed in the budget; the sheriff’s office expansion budget should be restricted until a new sheriff is in office; payroll expenses were increased again this year while the public has reduced income.
“Since 2008, we have more than $700,000 a year in increased spending,” Richardson said. “It’s all because of improvements in the county that are taxed.”
Richardson said he would rather see the money used to lower tax rates.