Small raises tough to fit

May. 27, 2014 @ 09:25 PM

Vance County commissioners are fighting a property tax increase for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

The board met in a budget work session Tuesday night to eliminate some expenditures that would accommodate county employee salary increases and keep taxes at a constant rate.

Commissioner Gordon Wilder opened the meeting saying that he felt the board should do whatever they can to make sure it prepared for possible decreased property value in the coming years.

He suggested the board look at cutting budget items and refrain from using the county's fund balance.

"We really need to think about paring our budget down instead of raising taxes," Wilder said.

The board started review of building, legal, law enforcement and information technology. Some contain about $1,000 to $100,000 in budget additions for some departments for renovations and maintenance.

Many departments, such as the register of deeds, are requesting funds to take their services digital, which Commissioner Dan Brummitt opposed.

“We want to make sure that we are investing everything that we should be to get the return,” Brummitt said. “I feel like everything is going digital but they are not seeing the cost savings.”

He also suggested the board hold off approving more funding for the economic development department, until record could show they were adding to the revenue tax base.

“We need to be spending money on something that has been giving results," he said.

The board reviewed additions to the law enforcement budget that accommodates cars, uniforms and vehicles purchases, but the department's budget is slated to remain about the same going into the new year.

During the meeting the board decided to put on hold the request for adding an additional information technology employee to the county's office.

The additional personnel brought the department's budget to about $148,000 from $145,000, even though the department only used about $90,000 during the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

Commissioner Terry Garrison, who proposed the freeze of the IT position, said the board was being too lenient on the budget items.

"We can't bare down if we keep adding things," Garrison said. “I've got my knife out on this one. We got to start cutting some things.”

Among the other items reviewed:

• The senior center's budget request increased about $12,000 to accommodate more part-time personnel.

• The board plans to spend about $100,000 less on buildings and maintenance.

• The social services budget request included an increased of about $5,000, which could be used to add an outdoor pod for data storage.

• The courthouse budget request includes about a $33,000 increase that will accommodate maintenance and personnel, including painting that hasn't been done in almost 14 years.

Commissioner Eddie Wright still questioned where the money for the raises would fit in.

"Where is this money going to come for these 2 percent raises?” he said. “Is it going to come out of the sky? There is no way in the world that you can give raises without using the fund balance.”

The board will meet again Thursday at 6 p.m. for another budget review session.

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