Area counties close to approving budgets

Jun. 08, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

As Lee County government officials work to finalize the county’s budget for the fiscal year 2014-2015,  officials in Harnett, Chatham and Moore county are all doing the same. By state law, counties’ budgets must be finalized by July 1.

Chatham

The proposed operating budget for Chatham County is $94.03 million, 1 percent more than last year’s budget of $93.11 million.

The big changes, according to Assistant County Manager Renee Paschal,  are increases in funding for the public school system, raises for government employees and a new position in the Central Permitting Office, the Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Social Services.

The proposed budget also includes a one-cent property tax increase for the Siler City fire district. The revenue generated from the increase would be used to pay a full-time fire chief for the district. Otherwise, there is no proposed change to the county’s property tax rate, which would stay at 62.19 cents per $100 of valuation.

The school system would receive about $1 million more than last year, $577,000 of which would continue funding the district’s 1:1 Laptop Initiative, which aims to put a digital device in the hands of every student.

“The county recently did a study on market pay for public employees,” Paschal said. “Employee raises would be a combination of [cost-of-living adjustments] and getting employees who aren’t at the market level up to market rates. Employees who are at the market rate would get a 2.5 percent raise.”

Paschal said the Chatham County Board of Commissioners has adopted the budget in principle, but that it will adopt the legal ordinance June 16.

Moore

Moore County Manager Wayne Vest’s proposed budget for 2014-2015 is $120.78 million, a .79 percent increase over last year’s budget of $119.84 million.

Moore County Commissioner Randy Saunders said there is only one major change to the county’s budget this year — the way the county determines funding for the public school system and Sandhills Community College.

“Before, they actually had to come and ask us for funding,” Saunders said. “We’ve gone to a funding formula that calculates how much money is allocated to the schools as a percentage of our revenue from sales and property tax.”

Saunders said the exact percentage for public schools had yet to be nailed down, but would most likely be between 37 and 42 percent of tax revenues. He said the Moore County Board of Commissioners had already agreed that the community college would receive 6 percent of the county’s tax revenue.

“We’ve also set up a capital reserve account for the community college,” Saunders said. “And we will do that for the public schools as well. At the end of the year, if we come in under budget, we take that money and put it in a capital reserve account for future projects. Now, the community college will get 6 percent of that money to use in the future, and the public schools will get whatever percentage we decide on for them.”

The board also will look at the way the county funds nonprofits, according to Saunders. He said now, there is no rhyme nor reason to which ones the county funds and how much funding each one receives. There are no proposed changes to the county’s tax rate of 47 cents per $100 of valuation.

Harnett

Harnett County’s proposed budget would raise the property tax by 5.5 cents per $100 of valuation, bringing the tax rate to 78 cents, according to County Manager Tommy Burns’s budget message. The county expects $60.38 million in property tax revenue in the coming fiscal year.

The tax increase comes out to an additional $82.50 for homes valued at $150,000.

“The city of Dunn has also requested that the county take over its 911 emergency dispatch operations,” said Harnett County Public Information Officer Brian Haney. “We currently do that for every other city in the county.”

Haney said five positions will be added if the Harnett County Board of Commissioners approves the measure. He also said the budget proposes replacing 18 vehicles for the sheriff’s office.

Under the proposed budget, funding for the Harnett County School System would increase by $5 million as well.