Finding the road to our city, county budgets

Jun. 22, 2013 @ 06:02 PM

Streets won’t be getting fully resurfaced in the city. But schools around the county will start getting additional security.

Money won’t go from the county into the fight against uranium mining in Virginia. But the city will help its traveling recreational ball teams.

Welcome to budget season in Henderson and Vance County.

“Certainly, there were plenty of things we would have liked to have had,” said county manager Jerry Ayscue.

“There was a lot in the general fund that wasn’t done, and hasn’t been done since 2008,” said city manager Ray Griffin. “The city hasn’t been able to regain its footing financially.”

And so, another year of hold the line, keep it tight, do what can be done to cut expenses is on the way.

On the positive side, however, both managers said citizens won’t recognize any significant changes in terms of reductions or eliminations. Most will be off the general radar.

Citizens may begin to wonder, however, about fixes or upgrades.

In the city, there’ll be no capital improvements, no street resurfacing, no server replacement at City Hall and no outside contracts for maintenance downtown.

“When you look at our needs for resurfacing streets, we had asked for $125,000 and we got $50,000,” Griffin said. “Given the backlog of street work, we could use $400,000 a year for a number of years and not catch up.”

Griffin said one of the ways to get street resurfacing done was through the power bill. But the city’s high point in 2007-2008 is in the rearview mirror. The level is consistent since dropping in 2010, but it’ll need growth to change the outlook.

There are also no changes coming to projector-linked presentations in city council meetings, no study for a new fire station location against the backdrop of oncoming high-speed rail, no new fire truck and only patches as opposed to roof repairs for several city buildings.

“Another station has been long discussed,” Griffin said of the fire department. “At some point, we’ll have to do that. Once high speed rail comes through, we’ll have a split.”

Griffin said the city would be purchasing five new police cars, all done through asset forfeiture money. And strong feelings expressed to the city council helped keep the Downtown Development Commission and money for the traveling youth ball teams in place.

Ayscue said the county wanted to combine efforts with the city on grant writing through the Kerr-Tar Regional Council of Governments. But the $10,000 each would have contributed was slowly whittled away. The same could be said for the Roanoke River Basin Association’s request of $2,000 in the fight against uranium mining in Virginia, which if overturned could impact water supply through Kerr Lake.

The county expects to add a fourth debt service bond for school improvements, one that will allow for $2 million in capital improvements. School roofs are eyed.

Schools will also begin to get a $50,500 annual investment toward security, with plans to repeat it the following three years. The capital outlay to the school system remained at $425,000, as it has been since 2006-2007.

The county will also finally invest in electronic pool books to improve automation of elections.

One-time items include $75,000 to the health department to assist in the accreditation process; financing for the county’s share in $1.25 million of replacement and repair work at Vance-Granville; a $10,000 appropriation to Hicksboro Volunteer Fire Department; and either $10,000 or $15,000 to the Warren County Free Clinic.

Ayscue said more study is expected on fire department allocations.

“I think there’s a commitment on the part of the board to revisit the funding methodology through the fire tax, and make sure the way we’re doing that now is the best way, or to identify and implement a more improved way of allocating funds,” Ayscue said.

And there’ll be one other key difference for the city and county. In the city, property taxes will rise by 3.5 cents per $100 valuation. In the county, there is no increase.

Contact the writer at awooten@hendersondispatch.com.