Southampton County budget keeps same tax rate

Published 10:04 am Friday, May 3, 2013

COURTLAND—Southampton County’s draft budget is ready for review and it has changed from its original form. The new version which is available to view on the county’s website, does not include a tax rate increase but instead keeps the rate at $0.75 per $100 valuation.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

It also does not include the extra $670,000 in funding requested by the county school board.

County Administrator Mike Johnson said it was basically a “flat” budget with “not a lot of changes.”

It does not include raises for county employees either.

Initially, the proposed budget had included a two cents tax increase, but Johnson said the board held several work sessions and tweaked it to keep the rate at its current status.

To make up for that lost revenue, Johnson said he and the board looked at the upcoming increased real estate taxes to be gained from two new businesses coming to the county – Enviva and AMAC. While he explained those revenues will not fully be realized until 2015, the 2013-2014 budget will see a “small amount of revenues that will come in.”

Other sources of revenue that were included was a small increase in meals taxes in the amount of $38,000 to come from the new Hardees Restaurant under construction in Courtland.

Johnson said that while the state revenue coming to the county for the two percent teachers’ raises was put back in the budget after initially being taken out, his budget would not include the extra amount for teacher raises above and beyond the two percent. This will be included in the school budget. He indicated the schools had asked for $11,641,270 locally and the county would be providing them with $11,040,669, approximately $600,000 short of their request.

Overall, the $52.4 million new proposed budget shows a $153,237 loss of revenue over what was initially proposed.

To make up the differences, expense cuts were made.

Some of those cuts include $25,000 for refuse disposal, which Johnson said was based on current trends and the volume of solid waste being handled; $75,000 to upgrade the Capron jail farm cafeteria, which he explained is overseen by the Sheriff’s Department and is in need of repairs; $22,000 for a Public Works pick-up truck; $21,000 for fire and rescue capital projects and $10,000 each for water and sewer repairs. Also $10,000 was cut for the refurbishment of the Rebecca Vaughan house and $600 to the Community Concert Association.

Security upgrades to the county courthouse were included to a certain extent. Johnson said $220,000 was included for purchase of the equipment such as security cameras, scanners and x-ray machines. But he explained the building improvement portion of the courthouse upgrades would have to be financed over an extended period of time but the first year payment was included.

Another hot topic had been the purchase of school buses. Johnson said the schools would have to finance the purchase of the buses but that the county included in the funds they are providing to the schools $70,000 to cover the first year of payments.

The next step in the budget process is to hold a May 20 public hearing and then consider adopting it May 28.