Supervisors adopt budget, 5-cent tax increase

Published 11:01 am Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Southampton County Board of Supervisors on Monday evening unanimously approved the $57.76 million budget for the 2017 Fiscal Year, a nearly $2 million growth from the $55.80 million that was allocated one year ago. This is supplemented by approved increases in the real estate tax rate (from $0.77 to $0.82); vehicle license tax ($23 to $28); and water and sewer fees ($26 to $27 and $34 to $35 per month, respectively).

“I would love to make some changes,” said supervisor Barry Porter of the Franklin-Hunterdale District, “but, at this time, there are no changes we can afford. I think this is a minimal budget. We need more money, but this is the best we can do right now.”

Vice Chairman Ronald West added, “I’m sure no one cares to pay more taxes, but the county has offered what it could to each request [it received].”

Of the increased revenue, $1.39 million (71 percent) is specifically earmarked for the Southampton County Public School District.

“I think everybody should know that the school system did receive the lion’s share of the increase, which they needed,” said Jerusalem District Supervisor Dr. Alan Edwards. “Nothing was wasted here, and I think this is an extremely good budget. The best we could do.”

Capron District Supervisor Bruce Phillips added, “We’re tasked with providing the residents of Southampton County with the best education possible. I would like to thank the school board for its cooperation as we have worked together to create a workable budget.”

The school district earlier this month adopted a revised operating budget request for the 2016-2017 school year, as it has previously sought in excess of $30 million — up 6.67 percent ($1.88 million) from the amount it was allocated last year. At that time, it lowered its request to $29.47 million to fall within the numbers allocated by the county’s overall budget.

“It’s something we feel like we can work with going forward,” said school board vice chairman Jim Pope, who also leads the district’s budget committee.

The remainder of the budget increase ($572,071) will expedite the initiation of the state-mandated real property reassessment; the county’s classification and compensation plan; and the fixed asset valuation report, which is the next step in determining whether the creation of a joint water and sewer service authority with the City of Franklin is in the locality’s best interest. It will also cover the escalating costs of contractual emergency medical services.

“I’m not in favor of raising taxes, but there comes a point at which we have to,” Phillips said.