The Dare County Board of Commissioners unanimously adopted the FY2021 Budget with no tax increases or reduction in County Services despite a loss of $4.3 million in tax revenue due to COVID-19. The action taken at the Monday, June 1 Board meeting, allowing Dare County to maintain services without a tax increase in spite of the pandemic, is a significant achievement made possible by the Board’s ongoing commitment to long-range financial planning and its efforts to maintain a healthy fund balance.
Unfortunately in order to prevent a tax increase or reduction in services, merit increases and Cost of Living Allowances (COLAS) for Dare County employees that were included in the Board’s budget priorities and previously recommended in a 2018 salary study, could not be included in the 2021 budget. Due to the impacts of COVID-19, all departments were asked to eliminate new budget requests and make any reductions that would not result in reduced service levels.
“Our Board appreciates the ongoing dedication and commitment that Dare County employees have exemplified during the COVID pandemic. Many worked tirelessly on the front lines of providing vital services to our residents and visitors and all have courageously faced the unique challenges of providing public safety and services amidst the crisis. We appreciate their dedication and commitment and look forward to when we can financially show our gratitude for their efforts based on an economic rebound that we are all working to achieve for our community,” said Chairman Bob Woodard.
There were no cuts to funding to Dare County Schools. However, due to COVID-19 revenue losses, there is no increase in funding as previously projected under the funding formula. The budget sets aside $23,230,449, which is the same amount as the current fiscal year. In addition, the county’s budget funds $1,245,639 for county-employed school nurses and school resource officers. The total allocated for Dare County Schools is $24,476,894.
Additional budgetary efforts included refinancing $24.4 million of debt in May. Refinancing provided $508,000 in savings this year, and $612,000 in savings in 2021.
Long-range planning is crucial to healthy sustainable community growth and the Board has remained committed in recent years to planning financially for the future. Dare County has utilized a Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) providing a long-range view of necessary capital projects over the ensuing five-year period. In 2019, the Commissioners implemented a Capital Investment Fund and a Debt Affordability Model. Both of these tools help the County plan for the future and ensure financial resources are available to fulfill the future needs of Dare County citizens.
CIP projects in 2020 in process or under construction include the new Dare County Animal Shelter and the $14.5 million College of the Albermarle campus construction on Roanoke Island.
Funding for the Dare County Guarantee Scholarship remains in the budget under the Board’s direction. With the uncertainty of educational settings this fall, the Board remains vigilant in its commitment to providing Dare County seniors and their families the opportunity to enroll in the College of the Albemarle at no cost. The program is a unique resource for Dare County graduates looking at alternative options due to the uncertainty of campus life resuming in the fall. An associate’s degree completed at COA is guaranteed to transfer to any UNC school.
The General Fund is the County’s main control fund for the accounting of expenditures (how the money is spent) and revenues (where the money comes from) associated with the delivery of services by County departments and agencies funded with property taxes, local sales taxes, state & federal allocations, charges & fees, and other miscellaneous funding sources. For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2019, General Fund revenues totaled $107,076,589.
The full budget, including the Manager’s Message that provides an overview of the budget will be available later this week at https://www.darenc.com/departments/finance/annual-budgets.