Expansion items, cuts for 2016-17 county budget

Published 9:56 pm Sunday, May 29, 2016

Beaufort County commissioners spent Thursday night whittling the 2016-17 county budget down in preparation for its finalization.

In preparing the 2016-17 Manager’s Recommended Budget, County Manager Brian Alligood and Chief Finance Officer Anita Radcliffe allotted funds to maintain all county services offered the previous year at a total of $56,320,001 — “what it costs to do exactly what you did this year, next year,” Alligood told commissioners when he presented the budget at the Board of Commissioners scheduled May meeting.

The few new items included in that total are the cost of Beaufort County EMS expansion, which includes taking over service in the Belhaven/Pantego area previously supplied by White Oak EMS and finalizing implementation of the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office E-911 Center’s Emergency Medical Dispatch program with the hire of five EMD-trained telecommunicators.

Commissioners approved several expansion items, or new funding approved beyond last year’s allocated funds, in Thursday night’s meeting. Those expansion items include:

  • A 2-percent cost of living increase for county employees ($283,777)
  • The first phase of the Beaufort County Courthouse renovations ($107,500)
  • Hiring of a maintenance technician for the public works department and vehicle for the technician ($56,445)
  • Hiring of an income maintenance caseworker for the Department of Social Services, offset by state and federal funds ($21,504)
  • Reclassification of DSS administrative assistant II to III ($2,348)
  • Additional funding for the Employee Assistance Program ($6,606)
  • Reclassification of a Soil & Water District position from administrative assistant to office manager ($8,390)
  • A 50/50 match for tourism and community grants ($15,000)
  • A 15-passenger van for Cooperative Extension’s 4-H program with a second van purchased by PotashCorp-Aurora ($32,000)
  • Funding for the Grace Martin Harwell Senior Center ($20,000)
  • Additional funding for the Beaufort Area Transit System ($30,000)
  • Capital funding for the Boys & Girls Club of Beaufort County ($5,000)
  • Capital funding for Ruth’s House, domestic violence shelter ($2,500)
  • Additional funding for recreational programs in the following municipalities: Bath ($1,729); Belhaven ($10,800); Chocowinity ($2,800); Washington ($4,268)
  • Additional $558,460 in funding for Beaufort County Schools

Beaufort County Schools is slated to receive a total of $14,300,984 in current expenses and $990,639 in capital outlay (construction and maintenance). The Board has requested that BCS use $466,920 of the capital outlay funding to improve safety and security at the schools, a project that has been discussed by commissioners and school officials.

Initially, the recommended budget called for no funding for Belhaven’s recreational programs due to the town’s outstanding balance of $20,000 for EMS service owed to the county; however, commissioners decided against penalizing recreational programs to recoup the owed money.

Total additional funding approved by straw vote on Thursday is $1,154,033 beyond the manager’s recommended budget; however, Commissioner Frankie Waters made recommendations to cut the budget elsewhere to accommodate the additional funding.

During budget workshops, Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Charlie Rose did part of the work for commissioners, by reducing the sheriff’s office funding request by $149,086. The assumption of EMS service in Belhaven/Pantego from the contracted firm White Oak EMS also presented a cost savings to the county of $138,962.

Waters recommended the county put off demolition of the old Beaufort County Home on Highland Drive at a savings of $275,000; decrease Board of Elections funding by $33,000; and not fund a space-needs study for the county to inform upcoming renovations in county buildings, which would have cost $50,000.

The largest cut recommended is for capital outlay at Beaufort County Community College, at $500,000 from the $723,000 in capital outlay requested. Waters said he would like to see the community college’s recent grant of $6.5 million from the Connect NC bond referendum be used in its place.

The difference between the expansion items approved and the subsequent reductions is $7,985 — a difference Alligood said he could cut from elsewhere in the budget.

The next step in the budget process will be a hearing, in which the public can weigh in on the proposed 2016-17 budget. The hearing will be held June 6 at 5:30 p.m. in the Superior Court Room of the Beaufort County Courthouse.

One of the contested issues in the recommended budget is a 2-cent increase in property tax, from 53 cents per $100 valuation to 55 cents. Other increases to county residents include an increase of EMS service district taxes in two areas — Bath/Pamlico Beach, to 5 cents; and Cherry Run/Old Ford, from 4 to 4.5 cents — and a $50 increase in Solid Waste service, as it was removed from the county’s General Fund to its own Enterprise Fund in the recommended budget. Alligood said its removal and the $50 increase would fully fund the service and stop the subsidy from the general fund.

The Beaufort County Courthouse is located at 112 W. Second St., Washington. The manager’s recommended budget for fiscal year 2016-17 can be found at www.co.beaufort.nc.us/government/county-budgets.