County receives $79 million budget plan

DOBSON — Surry County could not alter its property tax fee regardless of uncertainty over gross sales tax revenues within the coming months.

The Surry County Board of Commissioners is operating brief on time to finalize a funds for the following fiscal yr, which works into impact in 4 weeks.

On Monday, the county board obtained the funds suggestions from the county supervisor, which is far later within the yr than typical, due to adjustments and unknowns that popped up in mild of COVID-19 and Gov. Roy Cooper’s govt orders to sluggish the unfold of the sickness.

The commissioners will mull over the main points of the report after which meet Tuesday to debate particulars.

The really helpful spending for the upcoming yr is $78,865,971, which is $1.6 million lower than the present yr’s $80,485,924.

“Total, that is a few 2.1% lower from final yr,” mentioned County Supervisor Chris Knopf.

“In comparison with Alleghany, Stokes, Wilkes and Yadkin, we nonetheless preserve the bottom tax fee,” famous Knopf. “However extra importantly, I feel, if you have a look at the tax fee per capita we’re nonetheless considerably decrease than most of our surrounding counties so far as what the … tax impression is on the person citizen.”

“County authorities is a service enterprise, and we should have personnel and working bills to ship these providers,” Knopf mentioned as he dove into particulars of his doc.

“Division heads, as they’re yearly, are requested to solely request what they should function. Along with any operational bills, they make requests for capital gadgets that which can be important to their operations.”

Most dept budgets (in addition to exterior funding requests) have been developed just a few months in the past, with out COVID-19 in thoughts, the county supervisor identified. That meant a great deal extra tweaking of the paperwork earlier than making ready a really helpful funds for the board.

He mentioned that funding precedence was given to mandated applications corresponding to debt service, public schooling, well being and social providers, public security and public information.

Funds have been really helpful to finish any initiatives which can be already underway, together with multi-year pledge commitments, like former financial growth incentive applications which may be ongoing, mentioned Knopf.

One slide — offered on display for residents to view on-line through YouTube video — confirmed among the greater bills nonetheless within the funds after Knopf and his employees made cuts. It confirmed:

– $2,363,425, for capital expenditures with the three public colleges techniques;

– $100,000, to help Surry Yadkin Works, a brand new vocation program between excessive colleges and the group faculty;

– $201,976, for the sheriff’s workplace to cowl elevated prices;

– $600,912, for elevated prices within the jail, too.

There have been six positions created for the jail on this fiscal yr which can be exhibiting up within the subsequent funds, defined Knopf.

This was carried out to fulfill state pointers for staff-to-inmate ratios.

The three faculty districts had requested for a rise in funding at a funds workshop final month. Knopf’s advice is to maintain the funding stage the identical for each the every day working bills ($1,210 per pupil) and common capital outlay monies ($115).

With particular capital requests he recommended funding $1,228,030 for initiatives at two Elkin colleges in addition to Jones Intermediate, Mount Ethereal Excessive, Mount Ethereal Center, Surry Central, and Cedar Ridge, Shoals and Westfield elementary colleges.

Knopf additionally budgeted $65,000 for SCC wants and $423,267 for public security (an ambulance, EMS automobile, and sheriff/jail wants).

He mentioned the county is obligated to pay $1,746,400 by itself debt service and $5,423,454 on faculty and faculty debt service.

He recommended the county solely fund the county’s minimal obligated contribution to the Surry County Financial Growth Partnership this yr.

As famous final month, he’s calling for a $three enhance within the annual landfill charge (from $42 to $45) to assist with the bills of increasing the landfill and constructing a brand new scale home.

This would be the last yr of a five-year part of accelerating the water/sewer charges in Flat Rock and Bannertown. Annually has been a 7% enhance to carry the operations out of the crimson and make them carry their very own weight.

There are requests for 2-cent tax fee will increase from the Ararat and Central Surry volunteer hearth departments. Knopf recommended the commissioners talk about these at a workshop subsequent week.

And, to point out the county is keen to make sacrifices itself, Knopf is looking for a $867,418 discount in county payroll, corresponding to not filling open vacancies.

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In discussing earnings, the supervisor mentioned that gross sales tax revenues might drop, so he lowered his expectations 12%.

Commissioner Van Tucker requested how Knopf got here up with this 12% determine.

Knopf mentioned gross sales taxes collected take a very long time to be reported again to counties, so it’s normally a few months behind. He mentioned the latest the county had proper now was March, and that month truly nonetheless noticed a small enhance (4.17%) even with the shelter-in-place order coming down.

He guessed that folks stockpiling items for his or her properties in anticipation of the lockdown triggered this slight rise.

As for the drop, he has listened to steerage from state companies that assist metropolis and county governments.

“We’ve a sturdy retail sector within the county,” he mentioned.

— — —

Public colleges’ particular capital initiatives have to be placed on maintain till no less than the autumn simply so the county employees can have an thought of how precise income collections are going within the first few months of the following fiscal yr, recommended Knopf.

For instance, the state is permitting residents to pay automobile taxes at a later date due to the pandemic, so finance officers are usually not relying on these taxes arriving on time.

The planning is conservative, and if every little thing goes properly, the county might see the fund stability enhance. Knopf’s plan reveals a $1.three million rise in reserves if the gathering fee on property taxes is 97% and the gross sales tax revenues drop not more than 12%.

Commissioner Eddie Harris mentioned that traditionally the tax assortment fee is nearer to 99%.

Knopf mentioned that just about yearly he budgets to make use of a little bit little bit of fund stability if the gathering fee is barely 97%, however with the upper assortment, he by no means has to dip into that cash and normally has a slight enhance.

Harris mentioned that when he joined the board the funds was primarily based on 96%, which was actually off, so he likes 97% higher as a result of it’s nearer to common.

This yr stays to be seen, mentioned Commissioner Tucker. What occurred within the Nice Recession in 2008 to 2010?

It was most likely mid 98% within the recession, mentioned Harris. It didn’t drop a lot.

The county additionally was confronted with a property tax revaluation round that very same time, mentioned Harris. When all the information shook out, the lowered tax worth triggered a tax income hit of about $342,000, and the board thought that was a fairly good quantity.

And now the county is engaged on a brand new tax valuation once more, Harris added.

What has that appeared like, Tucker requested Knopf.

Nicely, earlier than the virus, it was trying like property values could be about 5% greater general, he answered.

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The commissioners agreed to fulfill Tuesday at 6 p.m. to haggle over the main points of the funds. Harris mentioned he would participate by video or cellphone convention as he could be out of city that day.

If the board wants extra time, the members agreed that Thursday might be a carryover day.

Knopf mentioned the employees could be engaged on a plan to create a social distancing construction for seating house within the historic courthouse for the June 15 assembly so some people may be within the room along with the federal government middle for the general public listening to on the following funds.

Knopf famous that the board sometimes has 4 work conferences earlier than the really helpful funds comes up. However attempting to determine the best way to adjust to the state’s social distancing guidelines saved the group aside.

The county has had one thing like $87 million in requests, famous Chairman Larry Johnson, and Chris needed to lower out greater than $eight million to get right down to a funds he feels snug with. Johnson mentioned the county supervisor ought to be counseled for that.

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