A Little Relief

Jun. 21, 2013 @ 02:33 PM

How about a tax cut?
It won’t be much, maybe $14 for the owner of a $100,000 house. With a last-minute adjustment of revenues and some additional cuts, the
Board of Commissioners approved Thursday on a 7-1 vote, a 2014 $558 million budget with a 1.04-cent per $100 valuation tax rate cut.
The budget adds a little more for the schools, but does not give all the support some arts and community groups had expected.
As usual, commissioners were disappointed that they could not please everyone. Only Democratic Commissioner Carolyn Coleman voted against the 2014 budget.
“I have never liked any vote I made on a budget,” said Republican Commissioner Bill Bencini of High Point. “We have scarce and limited
resources.”
After commissioners spent two long sessions in the last week working over their final figures, Republican Commissioner Jeff Phillips, chairman of the county’ budget committee, offered a final amendment that added $1.5 million by cutting several more positions in the proposed budget and with the anticipation of increased revenues coming from changes in the way the state and local governments process vehicle taxes.
Final figures were not available at press time, however.
Although the final adjustment resulted in a slight tax cut, Phillips acknowledged that results were “not perfect.”
“This budget has been the most difficult for me,” said Democratic Commissioner Bruce Davis of High Point. “The pie is only big. It is hard to pick who gets funded and who does not when you want to be fair.”
Before their vote, commissioners heard last-minute appeals for more money for the arts, the schools and employee raises.
Here are some key budget points:
• Schools: Support for the county schools will increase to $177.1 million with the addition of $1.5 million for teacher assistants and teachers 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 $12.4 million, up $600,000.
• Staff: Seventy-three vacant positions will remain vacant, but those workers who stay will get a raise of as much as 1 percent based on merit. There will be no automatic contributions to employee 401(k) retirement plans. The county will match contributions made by employees up to 5 percent rather than donating 5 percent to everyone. The budget sets aside $1 million for pay equity issues. The county will pay $151,000 to add three school nurses through the health department. The budget also deleted a proposed public information officer.
• Agencies: 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 all of the 12 new positions requested.  Many of the rural fire departments will see a fire district tax increase.
• Community organizations: Commissioners  added $16,700 for Nia Community Action Center, $25,000 for One Step Further and $20,000 for Partners Ending Homelessness and Carl Chavis YMCA, $16,700.  The proposed budget offered nothing. Funding for many other agencies was reduced from what had been recommended.
• Econmic Development: Funding for the High Point Market remains the same at $75,000 as does support for High Point Economic Development Corp. at $75,000, but downtown High Point will get nothing after $40,000 had been recommended. 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.
 

Details
2014 Budget: $558 million for operations; property tax rate, 77.00 cents
per $100 valuation. The owner of a $100,000 house pays $770 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 $91 million.