City seeking funds from county to help pay for services

Published 11:07 pm Sunday, May 28, 2017

Washington Mayor Mac Hodges, during a meeting of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, will ask for county dollars to help fund city programs and services used by county residents who don’t live in the city.

Hodges made a similar appearance last year, when the city made a formal request for county money to help pay for some of the city services used by county residents who do not live in the city and pay city taxes to support those services. The city asked for a little more than $1.3 million help pay for operating the city-owned Brown Library, the city-run Grace Martin Harwell Senior Center, the city-run Hildred T. Moore Aquatic Center and the city’s recreation facilities.

The county appropriated $20,000 to the city for parks and recreation, $20,000 to the senior center and $7,800 to Brown Library (the city contributes the same amount to the Beaufort-Hyde-Martin Regional Library).

The city is seeking $1.2 million from the county for fiscal year 2017-2018. The request breaks down this way:

  • $211,709 to help operate the city-owned pool;
  • $130,147 to help operate the senior center;
  • $580,554 to help run recreational facilities;
  • $281,282 to help run Brown Library.

Noting that Hodges is going before the county commissioners to request funding for certain city programs and services, Councilman Doug Mercer, during the City Council’s meeting Monday, said, “I would like to recommend that you also add EMS to that. The reason for that is that the property holders within the city of Washington pay property taxes to the county, and part of that property tax then goes to support EMS service in the county. I would think it would be appropriate for the county to return to the city that portion of the property taxes paid by the city residents, which go to support of the county EMS.”

Hodges said he understands Mercer’s point, but indicated is somewhat reluctant to broach that subject with the commissioners.

“I realize that you’re probably not going to get any support (from the county), but I think that should be a discussion item at least,” Mercer said.

Hodges replied, “I don’t mind putting it in there somewhere. I’d hate to put in a formal request because I know … it’s not going anywhere. … We got a little bit last time. I’m hoping we can do the same thing, get a little bit more because I wear them out when I see them. I’d actually rather leave that one alone this year.”

Because the county cancelled its EMS contract with the city to provide EMS coverage in western parts of the county outside the city, the city is losing about $300,000 in annual revenue.

“I think it is incumbent upon the county, if they are going to go to a countywide EMS system, which they told us that’s their intent, that they should begin to supply part of the funding for EMS services within the city,” Mercer said.

Councilman Larry Beeman said the city should pursue that money. “It never hurts to ask,” he said.

Mercer said there’s about $150,000 to $170,000 paid by city taxpayers that are going into the county EMS system. “That money should come back to the city,” he said.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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