Washington County proposed budget includes no tax increase

Published 2:59 am Wednesday, May 23, 2007

By Staff
County manager: Must raise taxes or find alternate revenues
Staff Writer
PLYMOUTH — After receiving the recommended budget for the next fiscal year, Washington County commissioners are hoping the county will receive Medicaid relief from the state and they won’t have to raise taxes.
If that relief doesn’t come, the county will have to find other revenue sources so it can balance the 2007-2008 budget, which goes into effect July 1.
To balance the proposed budget, Peoples recommends appropriating $368,054 from the county’s fund balance — the second year in a row the county would have dipped into that savings account.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services has projected the county’s Medicaid expenditures for the next fiscal year will be $1.76 million.
In planning for the future, Peoples was able to find some revenue sources to help balance the county’s proposed spending plan.
With the transition of Washington County Hospital in the works, the county is counting on funds from the sale of the hospital to become part of the budget’s revenue stream. Peoples budgeted $50,000 for two studies — one to determine the impact of expanding fire service in the county and the other to determine the effect of expanding emergency medical services in the county. The studies would be funded by proceeds from the sale of the hospital.
With the hospital being sold, EMS administration was transferred to the county, requiring $933,000 to be budgeted to the operation of that service. However, with projected revenues of $533,000, the county will have to cover the $400,000 difference between revenues and operating costs.
A second study would determine how “the county can assess and strategically plan to ensure that fire-protection services will meet the current needs of our citizens,” Peoples said.
Even with the $3.52 million the county will receive from the sale of the hospital, Peoples said the county continues to struggle with rising costs and a dwindling tax base.
Since 2002, county expenditures have increased by $3.1 million. General-fund (day to-day operations) expenditures outlined in next fiscal year’s budget are $14.3 million, according to Peoples.
The Washington County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget at 6 p.m. June 4 in the County Commissioners Room at 116 Adams St. in Plymouth.