In stark contrast to previous years’ budgets that floated property tax hikes amid shortfalls, Sampson County’s 2016-17 proposal includes no tax increase, a cost of living bump for all employees and a rise in per pupil funding for the school systems.
The plan was presented by County manager Ed Causey during a special meeting earlier this week. A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, June 6, in conjunction with the Sampson Board of Commissioners regular meeting.
The 2016-17 recommended General Fund amount totals $56,909,317, which is a 3.3 percent increase over the current year’s approved General Fund total of $55,087,932. The tax rate is proposed to remain at 83.5 cents per $100 valuation. A penny on the tax rate generates $418,458.
“We are extremely pleased to be able to present the 2016-17 budget without a tax increase,” Causey stated in his budget message. “It is important that we acknowledge the hard work that our department heads have done on their respective budgets and their conscientious efforts to try to conform to the goals for financial restraint as directed by the Board of Commissioners.”
The county has an undesignated fund balance slightly above 22 percent, which is above the 8 percent threshold required by N.C. General Statute but less than the 25 percent recommended by the Local Government Commission for counties similar to Sampson’s size. About $1.89 million is being appropriated to balance the budget, but Causey said he anticipates lapsed salaries and benefits to “negate the need to spend a significant amount of this appropriation.”
The implementation of a $3.7 million pay plan required the county to reduce expenditures by $1,191,391 within four years. Of that amount, $395,497 was to be achieved for the 2016-17. To date, about $1.05 million in savings has already been approved, Causey said. To carry out one of the primary goals of the pay study.
“We are proposing a 1 percent cost of living increase for all employees,” said Causey, noting that was in line with the Consumer Price Index. “The projected cost of this increase is approximately $201,000, and is considered an investment in maintaining one of the primary goals of the pay study implementation: to ensure our wages reflect current market so that we can retain employees.”
Sampson is projected to receive about $1.43 million from the expanded sales tax, a good chunk of which — $800,000 — will be used to pay on debt for school construction. Another $301,605 of the proceeds for school operating expenses, which will increase the per pupil funding to $975 per student, up from the current $930, for Clinton City and Sampson County schools. Sampson Community College capital improvements will be funded at $250,000 and another $75,709 will be dedicated to economic development.
Causey said property tax revenues are also expected to increase by $714,986, projecting a collection rate of 97 percent
Other proposed budget items include:
• Advertising for a full-time recreation director in hopes of filling the position by mid-fiscal year. The position is currently part-time.
• Establishing a special contingency account of $166,035, which represents the excess in savings realized for 2016-17 over the $345,497 amount needed.
• Increasing the county contribution to the Health Department by $319,164
• Replacing 17 Sheriff’s vehicles, one ambulance, a QRV, a vehicle for the fire inspector, three vehicles for Social Services and one truck for Parks and Recreation.
• Appropriating $750,000 for the maintenance of buildings
• Allocating $50,000 in funding for the Sampson County History Museum
• Allocating $69,000 toward the ongoing purchase of needed equipment for the Board of Elections
• Limiting the number of pick-ups at the county’s two e-waste convenience sites due to the increased cost of the mandated handling of that waste. This year, the county budgeted $9,600. That budgeted amount has spiked to $72,000 for 2016-17.
The budget is available for public inspection in the Office of the Clerk to the Board, County Administration Building, 406 County Complex Road in Clinton between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays. The proposed budget may also be viewed online by visiting www.sampsonnc.com and budget comments can be sent to [email protected]
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.