by Carrie C. Causey
But in order to fund the $73 million proposed budget for 2013-14, the county will have to appropriate more than $3.3 million from its savings.
Monday night, County Manager Angela Harris and Finance Director Chuck Murray officially presented the draft budget for 2013-14, which is $3 million more than the current fiscal year’s Residents have the opportunity to weigh in at the next meeting, June 17 at 7 p.m., 113 Market St., Louisburg.
Commissioners have the option of making changes that night, scheduling future work sessions or voting to approve it that night.
This year, county departments had nearly $75.6 million in requests from departments, with $1.7 million going unfunded. The largest increased expenditures are proposed for EMS, schools, debt service for the jail renovation and a budgeted 3 percent cost-of-living hike for county employees.
Looking up: According to Harris’ budget message, Franklin County has shown improvements with its unemployment rate dropping to 8.2 percent in March, compared to 10.3 percent in 2011. Single family permits have increased by 28 percent since the 2011-12 fiscal year, plus the register of deeds exceeded its budgeted reserves by $60,000.
County staff anticipate an increase in property tax revenue, a one-time $1.2 million windfall from DMV revenue from the combination of motor vehicle registration and property tax, plus increased sales tax revenue, totaling an estimated $2.8 million in additional revenue.
The county also appropriated $3.07 million to make up for the difference between expenditures and revenues for this fiscal year, but only spent $800,000.
In her budget message, Harris attributes the fact to “departments have been conservative with regard to expenditures and revenues have been better than anticipated.”
New school, more funds: The education budget will receive funding for the opening of the new Franklinton Middle School and a school resource officer for the facility, but no additional officers for elementary schools. Education is slated to receive $13 million, an increase of 5.5 percent of the current year’s allocation. The funding goes to public schools, Early College High School and Vance-Granville Community College construction costs to expand the facility.
Fire taxes increase: Residents in Youngsville, Bunn and Pilot fire districts will see an increase in fire tax rates to $8.50, $6.75 and $8 respectively. The others are slated to remain the same.
Water rates decline: Water rates are recommended to decrease by 5 percent. However, Youngsville customers affected by the merger will continue to receive a 10-percent discount of county rates at the time of the merger and will not earn additional savings.
New rates for the rest of county customers are $7.30 per 1,000 gallons for towns; $5.75 per 1,000 gallons for high volume users, $28.50 for the first 2,000 gallons and with each additional 1,000 gallons at a rate of $7.30 for low volume users; and $5.75 per 1,000 gallons with an $11 fee per connection for multi-users.
Debt reductions: Even with the proposed budget, appropriations and earmarked reserves, the county still has $13 million undesignated. However, the county owes $86 million in the general fund and has $13.6 million in water and sewer debt.
“The debt is less than $100 million,” Murray said of the $99.6 million total. “I didn’t know if I would ever see that.”
The water and sewer fund will transfer $500,000 to the county’s general fund, which it still owes $5.6 million from previous year’s loans.
New equipment: Among the capital requests to address technology, equipment, vehicle and facility needs are a satellite library in the Centerville area, architectural fees for the expansion of the Louisburg library and jail renovation, plus 10 new fully equipped Sheriff’s Office vehicles, two new ambulances and three defibrillators.
Staff increase: The county plans to increase the number of personnel from 462 to 483. The largest expansion is the addition of 19 employees in EMS to increase the number of paid staff, though they are working with an outside consultant to plan for future changes. According to the budget message, the hiring of new staff is recommended to be delayed until the study is finished.
Also budgeted are two new deputies for the Sheriff’s Office, one position each in animal services, social services and water and sewer departments. The health department will see a reduction of three staff members. Commissioners justified it by a decrease in patients.
There are several positions in each department that remain frozen.
Nonprofit support: Though not at the requested amount, the county has budgeted funding for nonprofit services, including the Boys & Girls Club, Franklin County Arts, Franklin County Chamber, Volunteers in Medicine, FVW opportunities and Safe Space.
Safe Space requested $50,000 but will only receive $8,640.
Safe Space board of directors member Jim Grove said the domestic violence awareness and prevention organization had its federal and state funding cut and they hoped the county and other organizations which they help, would support the nonprofit to maintain its services.