Hyde commissioners pass $12.5 million budget

Published 6:54 pm Wednesday, June 29, 2016

HYDE COUNTY — The Hyde County Board of Commissioners passed a $12.5 million budget for fiscal year 2016-17 on June 6.

County Manager Bill Rich said this will be the fourth budget year without a property tax increase — a factor he attributes to good fiscal management. The current tax rate stands at 64 cents per $100 property valuation.

Hyde County’s fund balance, which is essentially a savings account, has also grown to 36 percent of the county’s total revenue, according to a press release. The state mandates that all counties have a balance of at least 8 percent.

A large factor in the growing fund balance is FEMA reimbursements starting to trickle in, according to Rich. When Hurricane Irene hit eastern North Carolina in 2011, the devastation left a $4.5 million burden on Hyde County. FEMA relief funds from the disaster have just started to reimburse the county for its losses.

“We’re in great shape financially,” Rich said. “We’re also saving money. That’s what’s significant about it.”

He said the county has also seen a successful sales tax base due to the utilization of its assets, including the tourism base of Ocracoke and natural resources.

“Hyde’s future is right before our eyes. It’s our farm and timberlands. It’s the quality of our local farmers and landowners and their ability and willingness to reach out and explore beyond the box,” Rich stated in his address to the commissioners. “Hyde’s economy is tied almost exclusively to farming, fishing and tourism. Our economic development plan now and for the future will be tied almost exclusively to growing and promoting these three.”

Two more important factors in the 2016-17 budget are the allotment of almost $1.58 million to the school system, 14 percent of which will fund some educators’ salaries, and the creation of an Information Technology Department, according to the release.

Rich said he can’t take credit for Hyde County’s financial stability, however. Balancing a budget is a team effort of all departments, as well as a culmination of his predecessor’s actions.

“I had a lot of good things going for me when I came in,” Rich said. “What’s important is managing your fund balance. You have to find a place to find that spending because the budget bottom line has to be balanced.”