DOBSON — During its meeting Monday night, the Surry County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a fiscal year 2013-14 budget, one that requires no tax increase.
The action came following a public hearing on the budget proposal during the board’s regularly-scheduled meeting in the Commissioners Meeting Room of the County Government Center in Dobson.
Next year’s approximate $71.5 million budget does not require a tax increase, but re-allocates a total of just more than $5.5 million from the county’s fund balance. During the current budget year, the board allocated $5.3 million in fund balance, but did not use it citing an uptick in sales tax coupled with the sale of the county’s home health care division.
During Monday’s meeting, Assistant County Manager for Budget and Finance Betty Taylor noted that just more than $250,000 of the general fund allocation will come from state lottery proceeds, but must be included in the general fund appropriation for budgeting reasons, since those funds are yet to be received.
“With the funds generated from the sale of our home health care division and other savings and cuts, coupled with a little good news on the sales tax collections, it pretty much negated the necessity to use the appropriated fund balance this year,” Board Chair Eddie Harris said following a budget work session this month.
During the work session, county commissioners upped the per-student monies allocated to the county’s three school districts next year, taking the total to $1,075 per student, a $15 increase over existing funding.
Next year’s budget also allocates $967,000 to capital improvements for the county’s three school districts, a portion of which will be used for school roofing needs.
Commissioners also increased the per-student capital outlay from $50 to $55 for the schools, with the stipulation that the additional money, about $55,000 to be spread across the three districts, be used for school security.
In addition, the budget also allocates $4,500,000 toward school debt service, an increase of $1,47,270 over the current year’s funding.
Next year’s budget includes the replacement of the heart defibrillators on all county ambulances, funds two new deputy sheriff positions, three patrol vehicle replacements, the purchase of patrol car cameras and needed repairs to doors at the county jail.
Only one person, county resident John Pritchard, addressed commissioners during the public hearing on next year’s budget.
Pritchard told the board that he believed news stories noting last year’s $5.3 million fund balance allocation to the budget was misleading, since those funds went unused.
“It was in the budget,” he conceded, “but we hadn’t spent it then and we haven’t spent it now.”
Commissioner R.F. “Buck” Golding told Pritchard that those funds were there in case they were needed.
“We won’t really know what this year’s (total) expenditures will be until around October,” he said. “But we have to budget for the unknown. We don’t know what might happen that could fall into this year’s budget.”
Following the hearing, commissioners unanimously approved the budget on a motion by Commissioner Larry Phillips and with a second by Commissioner Jimmy Miller.
Harris said he is comfortable the board did the best they could given limited resources.
“I’m personally very satisfied with the budget we’ve come up with this year,” he said. “I think it’s very fair in light of the times and very wise with the appropriation of citizens’ tax dollars. I think we’ve safeguarded the general fund as much as possible.”
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.