Budget Discussions Continue in Tyrrell County

Published 11:29 am Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Kim Suter, Allison Snell, and Penny Owens listen to Tyrrell County Budget discussions last week

Kim Suter, Allison Snell, and Penny Owens listen to Tyrrell County Budget discussions last week

Budget Discussions are ongoing with the town of Columbia and Tyrrell County.
Columbia Town aldermen listened to proposals for greater fire service funding from two members in the 2014 budget than town manager Rhett White recommended a month ago.
During budget discussions on June 3, Mike Crowder favored full funding of the firefighters’  $7,128 additional request, and suggested that the money can come from the town’s general fund balance, bypassing the need to increase the property tax rate.
“They cannot continue the service that they are doing without us helping them out a little more,” he said.
James Cahoon supports a $5,112 fire department increase, and he specified cuts in eight line-item appropriations to divert $5,000 for the fire department and for bigger town employee pay raises without higher taxes.
Cahoon’s plan would add $3,000 to the $2,112 fire department budget request that White recommended. Another $2,000 would up salaries by two percent rather than White’s recommended one-percent increase.
Mayor Michael Griffin spoke in favor of the $2,112 increase, saying the proposed eight percent hike over the $26,400  the fire department has received in each of the past five years is equal to the increase in the cost of living as measured by Social Security retirement accounts during that period.
He also is against using the fund balance to pay ongoing expenses.
“We are out of fluff. We are down to the bare bones,” he cautioned.
Crowder, a representative for the aldermen on Tyrrell Volunteer Fire Department’s governing board, said the request for the increase is for maintenance only.
“It is for fuel costs and stuff like that,” he said.
Crowder said that a recently discovered fire engine repair need will cost in excess of $13,000.
Griffin told the five TFVD officers at the meeting that their request of a 27 percent increase “is just too difficult to justify to the citizens of Columbia, North Carolina.”
He acknowledged Cahoon’s effort in reading the budget and trying to work within what is available.
“There are not a lot of big bucks there. It is pennies here and pennies there,” he said.

The fire-fighters did not answer Griffin, having explained their reasoning in the May meeting.
Cahoon opened by saying he would like to find money for a fire department increase, and mentioned $4,000 as a figure. After finding that several of his proposed line items cuts could not be applied to the fire department’s benefit, he settled for the $3,000 increase over White’s recommendation.
Aldermen Ray Marner and Sandra Owens did not suggest changes to White’s recommended budget that would continue the 44.6 cents per $100 valuation tax rate. Mayor Midge Ogletree was absent.
White provided information from the UNC School of Government stating that counties and towns in North Carolina are not required to furnish or fund fire protection services. The many that do, pay for those services through general fund appropriations from the property tax rate or by establishing fire districts wherein property is taxed for the sole purpose of maintaining fire services.
An example of special tax rate district is the Gum Neck Drainage District. All property inside the dike is taxed by an elected board to maintain the drainage system and prevent flooding in that Tyrrell community.
White also quoted Farm Bureau insurance rates on a $120,000 residence. Inside Columbia, the annual premium is $1,106. The same cost applies if the residence were outside the town, but within five miles of a fire station and within $1,000 feet of a fire hydrant. Beyond those distances, the premium is $1,635.
White suggested that the town not adopt a budget until as late in June as they could possibly go.
“Right now you have no idea what revenues the legislature might do away with for municipalities,” he explained.
White mentioned that the budget could be reworked in the meantime.
“Then you will have a document where you know exactly how much is plugged into each one of those areas,” he noted.
Other requests for funding are in the budget.
Tyrrell County commissioners reached tentative agreement June 6 on a draft budget after about six hours of workshops Wednesday and Thursday afternoons.

The plan, if adopted without further changes, would raise the property tax rate two cents.

It would establish a non-emergency medical transport service, provide for a county manager and, after January 1, a finance director, install modern radios in the sheriff’s 11 patrol cars, reserve $25,000 for firefighting apparatus, give county employees a two-percent pay raise, and continue school appropriations at current levels.

The proposed tax rate of 69 cents per $100 valuation is based on collecting 95.83 percent of bills to be sent out in July, the same percentage used this year.

Current-year property tax collections are expected to top $3.1 million. Social services income from federal and state programs will bring in another $1 million plus.

The general fund has 28 county departments and other components that will be allocated about $6 million.

Nine other funds will bring total county spending to $8 million.

About $300,000 is to be taken from reserves to balance expenditures with projected revenues. This would leave about $2.1 million for operations when revenues are down and for emergencies.  Hurricane Irene cost the county over $556,000.

Largest objects of expenditure (with dollar amounts shown in thousands) are:

Social Services, 1,295

Water system, 1,000

Sheriff, 967

School operations, 744

Appropriations, 742

Bldgs, grounds, 473

Debt service, 462

Governing body, 456

Solid waste, 455

School capital outlay, 225

Tax, 191

Finance, 178

Sewer system,153.

Register of deeds, 121

Governing Body and Appropriations are catch-all accounts that include several contracts such as Washington-Tyrrell EMS at $228,000 plus.

The commissioners will officially receive interim administrator Ken Windley’s recommended budget at 3 p.m., Thursday, June 13.

More changes could be made then.

A public hearing is set for 5 p.m., June 27, after which final adjustments will be made and a vote taken. The new budget goes into effect July 1.

All these meetings are open to the public.

Same key figures from the 2012 budget included:

  • The county’s auditors from Pittard, Perry and Crone reporting the Real and Personal Property tax collection rate increased from 89.0 percent on 2010 to 92.81 percent in 2011, while DMV collections fell from 71.75 percent to 69.96 percent.

  • Based on the year’s values and previous year’s collection rate, a revenue neutral rate of .652 cents.

  • A one percent increase on the tax rate from $42,998.00 to $45,357.00 for 2013.

  • A proposed Tax Rate of .68 cent per $100.00 of value which is .02 greater than the previous year and an additional Fund Balance Appropriation of $279.166.77.