First major project ready for approval

Jun. 24, 2013 @ 06:25 PM

Seventeen weeks ago, David Beck arrived as Vance County’s new finance director.

Nine weeks in, he and county manager Jerry Ayscue presented the commissioners with a budget. Tonight is a crescendo of sorts when the fiscal year budget goes for a formal vote in a special called meeting.

Beck and Ayscue have been praised by commissioners for their work, including by chairman Tommy Hester. The original budget presented was $42,563,693 and tonight’s tentative number of $42,606,296 reflects about $90,000 in additions with adjustments of just under $50,000 due to personnel changes since the process began.

“We’ve been as conservative as we could be with the budget,” Beck said Monday afternoon. “We followed the directive of the board with no tax increase, using less fund balance. I feel like we hit some of those targets. It’s a tight economy, and the budget is tight, but I feel like we have addressed some of the needs that were out there.”

The budget includes $15,000 going out of the county to the Warren County Free Clinic. It is a decision opposed by commissioners Archie Taylor, Dan Brummitt and Hester.

“I think we spent too much time worrying about things we didn’t need to worry about,” Hester said. “I am totally, totally pleased with Jerry Ayscue’s budget figures that he came out with. If you look at his budget, and where we ended up, out of a $42 million budget, and only $40,000 difference from where we started, that tells you he does an excellent job.

“I’ve had one commissioner tell me it doesn’t please him all the way, and another say that it doesn’t please them in another way. Nobody got everything they wanted. So it must be a good budget.”

Beck had been through about a half dozen budget processes before, mostly in the role of assistant finance director. This was his first time in the chair alongside the county manager.

“The budget process is always a challenge, but to come in right before we started on the meat of it, I was juggling that and getting up to speed in my new position,” Beck said. “Taking on a big project like that was a challenge, but I was excited.

“We had a goal of May 1st, and we didn’t discuss what would happen if we didn’t make May 1st. We had a lot of late nights and Saturdays to make it happen, but I was pleased to get it out as the board had requested.”

For the fifth consecutive year, the county property tax rate per $100 valuation will be 78.2 cents. It was 79.8 cents in fiscal year 2008-2009.

The “watch” game for the state budget process in Raleigh never changes year to year. The General Assembly has a duplicate deadline, and most years find a number of counties and municipalities approving budgets before the state.

Beck said everyone has to be ready for adjustments once the state budget is finalized.

“We just have to make projections,” Beck said. “We get some guidance at the state level from our association of county commissioners. They watch closely what the General Assembly is doing and pass on information and give us a heads up on what to expect. We’re probably not going to know the answers to those questions until after our budget is adopted.”

“It’s a hard, hard process,” Hester said. “And every commissioner that is there is committed to doing the best he can to work toward keeping the taxes low. I wrote a letter to each of them Friday thanking them for the job they did personally.”

The commissioners’ agenda includes five other items: qualified zone academy bonds; authorization of year-end closeouts; Community Block Development Grant Debarment Certifications; appointment of voting delegates for the national county commissioners’ conference; and a lease agreement for Henderson Collegiate Charter School.

The meeting, open to the public, begins at 5:30 in the Vance County Administration Building on Young Street.

Contact the writer at awooten@hendersondispatch.com.