Vance County avoids increase in taxes

Jun. 18, 2013 @ 07:29 PM

The Vance County Board of Commissioners has settled on a $42.6 million budget for the next fiscal year.

Meeting in work sessions Monday night and Tuesday afternoon, commissioners advanced the 2013-14 spending plan with no tax hike and nearly a $1 million dip into county reserves to balance the general fund.

Commissioners set a meeting for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 25, for a vote on the budget in its final form. Still to be finalized by Jerry Ayscue, the county manager, and David Beck, the county finance director, is the amount going to the Warren County Free Clinic.

Commissioners approved $15,000 if Ayscue and Beck can find $5,000 within the $42.6 million. Otherwise, the clinic will receive $10,000 from Vance County taxpayers.

Overall, the 2013-14 budget exceeds the current budget by about $745,000. Items that helped bump up the amount include $230,000 to reorganize the fire department, $45,000 for capital improvements at Vance-Granville Community College, $75,000 for jail operations, $70,000 for the tax office, $188,000 for Department of Social Services programs and $75,000 for health department capital improvements.

The animal shelter is scheduled for an additional $50,000, but an increase in adoption fee and other fees will offset some of the expense. The budget also includes $35,562 for a gang investigator for the sheriff’s office.

Commissioners approved the board of education’s request for funding in four installments to improve security at county schools.

The request is for $50,500 a year for four years for remote door release and access systems. Most of the funds will come from lottery proceeds, which the school board and the commissioners must apply for jointly.

The school board included two middle school security officers in its request but agreed to fund the $64,800 from its budget.

The county’s 10 volunteer fire departments will see a slight increase in their funding from $60,000 each to $60,600. The Hicksboro department will receive an additional $10,000 to help operate a substation it opened on Thomas Road about five years ago.

But approval of the Hicksboro request came with a warning to other fire companies — don’t open a substation and expect additional funding.

“That’s not what we advocate,” Commissioner Deborah Brown said. “This is why we need to look at our fire plan for the county.”

“There’s a need here, and we should help them,” County Manager Jerry Ayscue said. “I’m convinced they’re struggling mightily.”

If the additional is needed now, Commissioner Gordon Wilder said, “What about next year and the year after that? What are they doing to help the situation?”

Commissioner Dan Brummitt said the departments should be encouraged to talk to one another and that no substation should be opened until it is discussed with the commissioners.

County employees will go without a pay increase in 2013-14, and so will commissioners. They decided to leave their compensation at $6,252 and the board chairman’s at $8,748.

Board members also noted the decline in county reserves balance.

About $9 million of the $14.7 million is unrestricted, Ayscue said. While final numbers await an audit, the county will use about $1.5 million of the reserve this year. The next budget dips into the reserve for $914,786.

Contact the writer at news@hendersondispatch.com.