Budget draft: No tax hike

Published 9:05 am Thursday, April 26, 2012

COURTLAND—Southampton County supervisors voted 5-1 to approve a preliminary budget that would not raises taxes but would result in laying off six teachers and 32 teaching assistants, custodians, and central office and cafeteria workers. Also, each household in the county would pay $200 annually for use of the county’s dumpsites.

The school district already eliminated 16 positions before the preliminary budget was approved on Wednesday; 10 were teaching jobs. These positions will not be filled due to resignations or retirements.

“It will have a very dramatic impact on our efforts to provide services to our children,” Superintendent Charles Turner said about the supervisors’ decision to allocate $29.5 million to schools, which is $591,931 less than the schools requested for 2012-13.

The county’s proposed $52.6 million budget also calls for charging households $200 annually for taking garbage to dumpsites. Residents currently do not pay to use the sites.

Supervisors one week earlier reviewed a worst-case-scenario budget, assuming taxes weren’t raised and no additional revenue was brought it. It involved laying off 96 of the county and school district’s 665 employees.

County Administrator Mike Johnson during Wednesday’s work session before about 600 residents recommended ways to increase revenue by $1.86 million, including the $200 garbage fee. It should generate $1.34 million.

Johnson also recommended not filling two openings in the Sheriff’s Office to save $78,000 and a building inspector’s position for another $45,000 savings.

The balanced budget called for the current 77-cent tax rate. After the county’s 12,000 properties were reassessed in 2011, the county experienced a 4.9 percent increase in overall assessments. That means a 75-cent rate will generate the same as last year’s 77-cent rate.

At the 75-cent rate supervisors approved for the draft budget, a resident with a property assessed at $100,000 would pay $750 a year.

Boykins/Branchville District Supervisor Carl Faison, who voted against the draft budget, favored the 77-cent rate because it balanced the budget. To meet the 75-cent rate, another $290,000 needs to be cut.

Franklin District Supervisor Barry Porter and Capron District Supervisor Bruce Phillips agreed to give up their $5,500 salaries.

Newsoms District Supervisor Glenn Updike compared the garbage fee to a tax increase.

“To increase that will be the largest tax increase the county has ever faced,” Updike said.