May 15, 2013

Budget and tax rate inching up in Dare County

By SANDY SEMANS ROSS 



It is still a work-in-progress, but the county’s proposed budget of $99,283.383 in the General Fund for fiscal year 2013-14 has been set for public hearing at the Dare County Board of Commissioners’ meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, May 20.

The draft budget -- based on a proposed property tax rate of 43 cents per $100 -- was presented to the commissioners at a reconvened meeting held on Monday night and, for the most, part drew little reaction from the board.

Recent revaluation of property values resulted in a 29 percent decrease in the tax base from approximately $17.7 billion down to $12.6 billion.

To collect the same total amount of revenues as that from the current tax rate of 28 cents, the revenue neutral tax rate is estimated to be 39.75 cents. The proposed tax rate is 3.25 cents higher at 43 cents. One cent equals about $1.245 million in collected revenues.

Earlier projections set the revenue neutral rate higher, but, there have been fewer appeals than anticipated of the new values, said County Manager Bobby Outten while presenting the proposed budget.

The General Fund portion of the budget, after adjustments, is 4.29 percent more than the current fiscal year. The total budget of $125,588,072 which also includes all special funds such as water, sanitation, etc., is .08 percent less than current.

The goals set by the board for the budget are to maintain the current level of services while creating no new programs or positions. Federal and state reductions in funding account for about $500,000 in lost revenues. Increases in costs of existing programs are estimated at $1.6 million and includes 7.5 percent increase in health insurance.

Maintenance projects and vehicle replacements are estimated at $1.4 million.

The budget proposal includes a 3 percent cost of living (COLA) raise for county employees who have not received the increase since 2008. During that same time period, the Consumer Price Index has escalated to 9.31 percent. In 2009, the employer’s share of the matching retirement dropped to 1 percent and was eliminated in 2010. Longevity pay and merit increases were reduced by half in 2009 and, in 2010, merit raises were eliminated.

Commissioner Bob Woodard was vocal in his opposition to the COLA raises, stating that the employees get 11 paid holidays and, incorrectly, that they get a day off for their birthdays. He also said that he doesn’t see the need to give anyone more money based on the number of years that they have been in county employ.

“County employees are very fortunate,” said Woodard, who added that he might agree to giving a COLA only to those who make less than $40,000.

To alleviate some of the high cost of the health insurance provided to the employees, the following new deductible amounts are proposed: $150 for non-generic drugs; primary co-pay from $25 to $35; specialist co-pay from $50 to $70; in network deductible from $1,000 to $1,500; and out of network deductible from $3,000 to $4,500.

Outten told the board that changes are still being made to the budget, which must be approved before the end of the current fiscal year on June 30.
 


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