LEE COUNTY: Commissioners get first look at proposed budget

May. 21, 2013 @ 05:01 AM

Lee County Commissioners received their first peek at the county's proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year — a budget Lee County Manager John Crumpton said he wasn't happy with Monday night.

"The chairman asked me before the meeting if I was happy with the budget," Crumpton said during the Monday Lee County Board of Commissioners meeting. "I'll just tell you 'No.' Normally when I sit down before the budget process I can think of all the increases and decreases, and in my mind I can figure out how I am going to balance things. After I went through the first round of cuts with the department heads, I was still about $2 million out of balance."

There are a lot of things that will go unfunded, he said. The commissioners should expect to hear from those department heads during a series of budget workshops scheduled throughout the coming weeks.

The proposed $63.5 million budget for fiscal year 2013-2014, which begins July 1, lowers the property tax rate from 75 cents per $100 valuation to 72 cents.

The main goals of the budget process were to reduce the current tax rate, support public safety and invest in the county employees, Crumpton said.

With a combined shortfall in funds from the state and federal governments, the county did an excellent job crafting the budget, said Lee County Commissioner Chairman Charlie Parks.

"The staff and county manager have done a tremendous job looking at what we asked for," Parks said.

The full recommended budget and budget presentation can be found online at www.leecountync.gov.

Budget snapshots:

* The Lee County Sheriff's Department is set to see a funding increase of nearly 17 percent from last year, largely in part to the changeover of the school resource officers program from the Lee County Schools to the sheriff.

* The budget calls for the closure of the Hillcrest Youth Home as of Aug. 31, and youth services will be eliminated. On an average day, the home serves less than three or four students.

* Lee County School System requested $18.6 million, but Crumpton is recommending schools receive $15.3 million. The budget does not include a special $500,000 appropriation from the county for teaching assistants, tutors and graduation ambassadors.

* County employees will receive a 1.7 percent cost of living adjustment.

* Two in-home aid positions within the county's Department of Social Services would be cut. The two people serve 12 homes.

* Several nonprofits, including Temple Theatre, Boys & Girls Club of Sanford/Lee County and Lee County Industries, are set to receive half of the funding they received last year as the county moves away from funding nonprofits.

* Lee County School-related debt is 85.5 percent of the county's entire debt.         

The commissioners also considered a presentation concerning the Fire Advisory Committee's proposed budget for the various fire departments within the county. A full story on the presentation will appear in Wednesday's edition of The Herald. 

In other matters, Commissioners:

* Approved three interlocal agreements with Broadway for Animal Control, Tax Collections and the Lee County Sheriff's Office.

* Tabled requests by Parks and Recreation and Environmental Health to restructure fees for the respective departments until the scheduled budget workshops in the coming weeks.

* Tabled a proposed transportation plan by Triangle Area Rural Planning Organization. According to TARPO Senior Planner Matthew Day, a plan must be in place for the county to receive and apply for various federal grants.

* Welcomed Shakeel Harris as a new intern for the county, who is set to shadow Crumpton in the coming weeks.

* Commissioner Ricky Frazier praised the Lee County Sheriff's Office for their quick response to a Sunday morning shooting near his home.