No tax increase in proposed budget
Ahhh, what a relief!!!!!
After months of fears and concerns, and some possible headaches, county commissioners got some relief Thursday after they saw a 2014 county budget with no tax rate increase.
As budget work concluded, commissioners worked to close a $14 million gap. There are cuts. Seventy-three vacant positions will remain vacant, but those workers who stay will get a raise of as much as 2 percent and a match on their 401-(k) of 5 percent. The budget sets aside $1.6 million for pay equity issues.
The county faced more cuts because the Great Recession drove down sales tax revenue, which has remained flat at $65 million. The county’s $45.4 billion property tax base grew at just 1.9 percent last year.
Democratic Commissioner Bruce Davis of High Point was happy with the 2014 proposal.
“I think the county is in pretty good shape given the economic climate,” he said.
Support for the county schools will stay at $175 million with $2 million for repairs and maintenance. The Board of Education wanted $13 million more for the operating budget. Guilford Technical Community College will get $12.3 million, up $600,000.
For the last few months, commissioners have considered delaying school construction bond sales and other major projects to avoid adding debt.
Delaying bond sales for a year could save $10 million to $14 million. The 2014 budget debt service will be $75.8 million, up $223,000 if the county does not issue any new bonds for the remainder of 2013.
Among the departments, health took a cut of $2.4 million. The sheriff’s department got a cut of less than 1 percent. EMS will get 12 new positions and many of the rural fire departments will see a fire district tax increase. The budget also recommends that Sheriff BJ Barnes move six detention officers to patrol the rural districts.
Barnes earlier told commissioners he did not want to transfer any jailers to patrol because he does not have enough jailers.
A budget committee worked with a list of mandated services and those the county does not by law have to provide and could cut. Earlier, county department heads were asked to provide budget estimates including a 15 percent cut. If all the expenses were cut, the county could save $30 million of the $40 million the county would pay for services.
The budget uses $25 million from the fund balance to boost revenue income to pay expenses.
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BY THE NUMBERS
2014 Budget: $559 million for operations, down $28 million mostly from the transfer of mental health services to a regional authority; property tax rate, 78.04 cents per $100 valuation, unchanged. The owner of a $100,000 house pays $780.04 a year in property taxes.
Debt: Guilford County’s outstanding debt as of June 30 totaled $901 million. The 2014 budget debt service will be $75.8 million, up $223,000 if the county does not issue any new bonds for the remainder of 2013.Public Hearing: June 6