Draft

BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS 

ALEXANDER COUNTY

WORK SESSION

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA

June 4, 2002

PRESENT: John F. Watts, Chairman
William L. Hammer, Vice-Chairman
Joel C. Harbinson
David S. Odom
W. Darrell Robertson
STAFF: Rick French, County Manager
Jennifer Herman, Budget Officer
David Icenhour, Human Resources /  Public Information Director
Jamie Millsaps, Clerk to the Board

 

The Alexander County Board of Commissioners held a budget work session on Tuesday, June 4, 2002 at 7:00 PM in the Agriculture Extension Learning Center in the Alexander County Administrative Building, Taylorsville, North Carolina.

FY 2002-2003 BUDGET DISCUSSION

Jennifer Herman, Budget Officer, presented ledgers which showed in detail information for the current budget, year-to-date totals, and the 2002-2003 budget requests and recommendations for each department.

Rick French, County Manager, began discussion of the 2002-2003 budget by informing the Board that Governor Easley’s budget proposed to withhold inventory tax reimbursements from counties and municipalities. Governor Easley has already taken over $350,000 from Alexander County for 2001-2002 and proposed to withhold over $850,000 from Alexander County in the 2002-2003 budget for a total of $1.2 million. Mr. French explained that these monies included inventory tax reimbursements as well as intangibles tax reimbursements, homestead exemption reimbursements, and food stamp reimbursements. Additionally, Mr. French noted that the increases in the county Medicaid funding portion, mandated by the State, was estimated at $250,000. Therefore, the total could be at least $1.45 million.

Mr. French explained to the Board that the Governor had cut all Day Reporting Centers out of his budget as well with the expectation that the counties would take over funding of the program at a cost of approximately $60,000. The Governor has reduced all library funding by 11% again with the expectation of counties resuming this service.

Mr. French noted that low interest rates had also negatively impacted the county budget in the 2000-2001 budget year resulting in a loss of $313,350 in revenues. Mr. French explained that budgeting revaluation as revenue neutral would reduce the county’s tax rate from 62 cents to 45.3 cents.

Mr. French mentioned that, due to the Governor’s actions of taking inventory tax reimbursements from counties and municipalities to help balance the state budget, 3 bills might be introduced urging the restoration of reimbursements. Members of the General Assembly say these bills will not get out of committee. Mr. French explained that a bill would be introduced to provide a half-cent local government sales tax option to counties and municipalities which, if passed, could possibly be effective July 1, 2002. Mr. French stated that more than 20 counties had passed resolutions requesting approval of the half-cent local government sales tax option and that more were expected to approve this option. Mr. French stated that the Governor’s budget had already gone to the Senate and noted that the Senate version would be available in approximately 2 weeks.

Commissioner Hammer discussed the Legislative Meeting held in Raleigh and noted that several legislators had made the comment that the NCACC leadership should have been more forceful in their opinions regarding the budget.

BUDGET FACTORS

Rick French, County Manager, stated that the General Fund for the 2001-2002 budget currently stood at $22,749,214 excluding school capital but not school operations.

Mr. French stated that he had 4 budget plans for 2002-2003 which included:

Plan #1 (Base Budget Plan)

    • General Fund total $21,823,714 (4% decrease from 2001-2002 year).
    • 46.5 cent tax rate which represents 45 cents plus 1 cents for the reimbursements taken in 2001-2002 ($303,000).
    • Reimbursements are budgeted as "normal".
    • 15 less employees.
    • Schools funded at $5 million or 3.3% ($160,000) more than 2001-2002.
    • Department of Social Services budget at 5.97% more than 2001-2002.
    • Health Department budget at 0.85% more than 2001-2002.
    • Sheriff’s Department budget at 9% less than 2001-2002.
    • $830,921 from Fund Balance.

Mr. French stated that if this budget were approved, the Board would need a Plan B to develop additional reductions or increases in revenue or both if reimbursements weren’t budgeted and the half-cent local government sales tax was not approved.

Plan #2

    • General Fund total $22,239,239 (2% decrease from 2001-2002).
    • 45 cent tax rate.
    • Reimbursements budgeted as revenue neutral.
    • 15 less employees.
    • Schools appropriation remains the same as 2001-2002 budget year.
    • Department of Social Services budget at 5.97% more than 2001-2002.
    • Health Department budget at 0.85% more than 2001-2002.
    • Sheriff’s Department budget at 9% less than 2001-2002.
    • $1.6 million from Fund Balance.

Plan #3

    • General Fund total $22,239,239 (2% decrease from 2001-2002).
    • 49 cent tax rate.
    • Reimbursements budgeted as revenue neutral.
    • 15 less employees.
    • Schools appropriation remains the same as 2001-2002 budget year.
    • Department of Social Services budget at 5.97% more than 2001-2002.
    • Health Department budget at 0.85% more than 2001-2002.
    • Sheriff’s Department budget at 9% less than 2001-2002.
    • $944,000 from Fund Balance.

Plan #4

    • General Fund total $21,756,239 (4% decrease from 2001-2002).
    • 49 cent tax rate.
    • Reimbursements budgeted as revenue neutral.
    • 15 less employees.
    • Schools appropriation remains the same as 2001-2002 budget year.
    • Department of Social Services budget at 5.97% more than 2001-2002.
    • Health Department budget at 0.85% more than 2001-2002.
    • Sheriff’s Department budget at 9% less than 2001-2002.
    • $319,000 from Fund Balance.

Mr. French stated that if this budget were approved, the Board would need a Plan B to develop additional reductions or increases in revenue or both if reimbursements weren’t budgeted and the half-cent local government sales tax was not approved.

Mr. French stated that the Board of Education would have additional debt in the upcoming budget ($4.8 million) due to the next phase of school construction including West Alexander Middle, East Alexander Middle, Sugar Loaf Elementary, and Stony Point Elementary. Mr. French noted that the half-cent sales tax monies would be used for the entire cost. Mr. French also noted that the DSS addition estimated at $596,280 was not budgeted at this time.

Commissioner Robertson suggested not budgeting the reimbursements in order to show the citizens that the total county budget was much lower. Commissioner Harbinson felt that the State would get the impression that the reimbursements weren’t needed if they weren’t budgeted. Commissioner Watts noted that the NCACC had recommended that all counties and municipalities budget reimbursements.

GENERAL FUND DEBT SERVICE PAYMENTS

Jennifer Herman, Budget Officer, presented a handout which listed General Fund Debt Service Payments budgeted for the 2002-2003 year. These included the Sheriff’s Department vehicles, building renovations and the prison, the CVCC building and land, and school construction. The debt service payments for 2002-2003 totaled $972,736.32, which includes Board of Education debt. The debt service for General Fund Operations less $687,502.04 for Board of Education debt totaled $285,234.28.

DEPARTMENTAL BUDGET INFORMATION

Mr. French reviewed several departmental budgets listed in the ledger. Mr. French stated that the Water and Solid Waste budgets were not included in the ledger because they had not been completed. Mr. French also noted that the information presented was based on the Plan #1 Base Budget discussed earlier.

Revenues

Mr. French stated that the estimated revenues with a 46.5 cent tax rate totaled $8,697,600. The inventory tax reimbursements, totaling $583,000, have been budgeted. Mr. French stated that total revenues total $21,823,715 and that $830,921 will come out of Fund Balance to balance the budget.

Expenditures

Mr. French discussed the following departmental budgets:

Governing Body

This budget is 33% less that the 2001-2002 budget year. Mr. French explained that funding for dues to the WPCOG, NCACC, etc. would be placed in the Special Appropriations budget. Mr. French also stated that dues to NACo would not be paid this year.

                Administration

                This budget is 7.3% less.

                Personnel

Mr. French stated that this budget had been combined with the Public Information budget.

Board of Elections

This budget is 7% less. Mr. French noted that approximately $31,000 would need to be added to this budget at a later date due to the Primary.

                Finance

Mr. French explained that this budget would increase because of the addition of a much-needed Budget Officer position. Mr. French stated that without this added position, this budget would have been 8% less than it was 2 years ago.

                Tax Office

This budget is 7% less. Mr. French noted that one appraiser position had been eliminated.

Information Technology

Mr. French stated that this budget would increase because a GIS position would be added. The county currently has a contract with the WPCOG to provide this employee at a cost of $55,000. Mr. French explained that the county could hire someone to fill this position and save $15,000.

Register of Deeds

                This budget is 2% less.

Economic Development

Mr. French stated that the Chamber of Commerce appropriations would be moved into this budget. Mr. French also noted that the county would not be funding the Carolinas Partnership this year.

Public Buildings

This budget is 14% less. Mr. French noted that funds would need to be added for Old Wittenburg School in the future as needs arose. Mr. French also mentioned that one position had been eliminated.

Sheriff’s Department

This budget is 8% less. Mr. French stated that the $25,000 crime scene grant funding had been moved into Capital Outlay. Mr. French noted that this budget would only be 2% less if the grant funding had remained in the Sheriff’s Department budget.

Court Facility

This budget is $3,000 less. Mr. French stated that funding in this budget was only used for maintenance of the courthouse.

Jail

This budget is 7.5% less. Mr. French stated that he still had concerns with some numbers in this budget and noted that he would be looking at this budget further.

Day Reporting

Mr. French stated that this budget would be completely eliminated because it would not be included in the state budget.

Juvenile Justice

                Mr. French stated that this budget was100% State funded.

Emergency Management

                This budget is 12% less.

Fire Service

Mr. French stated that this budget would increase slightly due to the addition of a FEMA grant for a Public Safety Educator. Mr. French stated that this grant-funded position would expire in November 2002.

                911 Communications

This budget is 21% less. Mr. French stated that majority of this decrease was due to the current vacancy of the 911 Communications Director position.

                Forestry

                This budget is 10% less.

                Human Resources/Public Information

This budget is a total of 44% less for both the Human Resources and Public Information budgets combined.

               Planning & Development

This budget is 17% less. Mr. French stated that one position had been eliminated from this department.

               Soil & Water

               This budget is 6% less.

               Health Department

This department is 0.85% more than 2001-2002. The Board agreed that was a good percentage when considering all of the programs offered. Mr. French stated that one position had been eliminated from Environmental Health.

                EMS

This budget is 11% less. Mr. French stated that EMS would not receive a new ambulance this year and noted that he and Nolan Jarvis, EMS Director, were working together to lessen this budget additionally.

               Animal Control

                This budget is 3% more because of the new animal shelter.

               Medical Examiner

Mr. French stated that this budget was a little less and noted Dr. Craig would not receive a raise as requested.

Extension Service

This budget is 11% less.

                Veterans

This budget is 1% less or $245 less. Mr. French stated that this was a one-person department.

               Social Services

This budget will increase 5.97% because of Medicaid increases of approximately $250,000 which the county has no control over. Mr. French stated that this budget would have been 2.68% less without the Medicaid increase.

Transportation

This budget is 31% less. Mr. French stated that $87,000 was spent last year for new vans and noted that the 2001-2002 budget would have only been 2% less if the vans had not been purchased. Mr. French also noted that this department would be moving to the Senior Center.

Recreation

This budget is 20% less. Mr. French stated that this department would not be hiring summer workers.

Library

This department is 20% less. Mr. French stated that he had proposed eliminating 2 positions at the library but noted that he and Doris Stephens, Library Director, had been working together on some numbers. Ms. Stephens has proposed cutting all employees’ hours instead of eliminating 2 employees. Mr. French stated that his numbers and Ms. Stephens numbers matched. Mr. French also noted that Ms. Stephens planned to retire at the end of 2002.

Senior Center

This budget is 50% less. Mr. French stated that one position would be eliminated. Commissioner Harbinson stated that he would like to see a sign up sheet of how many senior citizens attended programs at the Senior Center. Mr. French felt that the Senior Center should work more closely with DSS and Transportation. Commissioner Hammer suggesting involving the youth as well.

CVCC

Mr. French stated that this budget would increase a little due to the new CVCC/Alexander Center.

Schools

This budget will increase 3.3% or $160,000. Commissioner Harbinson stated that the school funding would equal approximately $900.09 per student. Commissioner Watts noted that the school system could lose 37 employees during the 2002-2003 budget year if the State followed the Governor’s suggested funding plan.

Other Funds

Mr. French stated that this budget was a little less due to the decrease in debt. Debt included in this budget includes payment of the Sheriff’s Department cars, building renovations and prison, CVCC, ACHS additions, and possible additional school construction.

Special Appropriations

Mr. French stated that there was a 10% reduction of most special appropriations. Organizations funded within this budget include the Hiddenite Center, the Minority Council, the Hickory Airport, Foothills Mental Health, the Water Quality Study, the Rescue Squad, Community Grants, the National Guard Armory, WPCOG, NCACC, and the Institute of Government. Commissioner Odom felt that the $18,000 appropriation to the Hiddenite Center was too much and suggested reducing the appropriation to $13,000 and possibly giving the additional $5,000 to the Rescue Squad. Mr. French stated that the Rescue Squad had agreed to the appropriation of $45,000. After discussion, the Board agreed to appropriate $15,000 to the Hiddenite Center and put the remaining $3,000 in the Fund Balance.

Mr. French noted that the Bethlehem Office would be delayed until further notice. Mr. French also suggested increasing Solid Waste fees and C&D fees by 10%. This would bring in an additional $100,000. The Board agreed to discuss this further at a later date.

Commissioner Hammer asked if the Board still planned on giving the fire departments a 10% increase. Mr. French stated that he was still working on those budgets.

After discussion, Commissioner Robertson stated that he wanted to make it clear that this proposed budget would totally depend on the actions of the State. Commissioner Harbinson agreed and felt that, if taxes had to be raised, the County should give the State full credit for those actions.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS

Mr. French stated that the Water Committee, consisting of representatives from Alexander County, EnergyUnited, City of Hickory, Town of Taylorsville, and Martin-McGill, would need to hold a meeting soon. Mr. French suggested Thursday, June 13, 2002 and stated that he would contact all representatives in regard to scheduling the meeting.

Mr. French announced that David Icenhour, Human Resources/Public Information Director had received 2 awards from the National Association of County Information Officers. Mr. Icenhour received a 2nd place award for photography for a photo of the Senior Nutrition Program as well as a 3rd place award for the Annual Project Report. Mr. French informed the Board that Mr. Icenhour would be traveling to New Orleans in July to receive his awards.

Commissioner Hammer discussed the collection of unpaid property taxes. Ms. Caryn Brzykcy currently works to collect those taxes. Commissioner Hammer inquired about the attorney fee involved and how the fee amount was determined. Commissioner Harbinson replied that the fee was a standard fee approved by the Clerk of Court and that there were no county funds paid to Ms. Brzykcy. (Commissioner Harbinson informed the Board at a previous meeting that although Ms. Brzykcy was his associate, he made nothing from the fees collected, but was actually taking a loss since he supplied office space, telephones, secretarial help, and other overhead costs free of charge to the county for tax collection purposes. In addition, Commissioner Harbinson explained that the County Attorney had sub-contracted with Ms. Brzykcy to do the tax collections after every other attorney in town had declined.)

ADJOURNMENT

Mr. French polled the Board for the need of another work session. The Board felt that another work session would be needed after the public hearing was held on June 11, 2002. Mr. French suggested June 18, 2002. The Board tentatively scheduled the budget work session for June 18, 2002.

There being no further business, the work session was adjourned at 9:00 PM.

 

                                                                                                           

  John F. Watts, Chairman           Jamie C. Millsaps, Clerk to the Board