County recommending no tax increase

By Keith Strange

June 3, 2014

DOBSON — The county’s board of commissioners has set a Monday, June 9, work session to mull a proposed $74 million budget for next year, one that maintains the current tax rate.

Presenting the budget to the board Monday night, County Manager Chris Knopf told the board that administrators recommend the county’s tax rate remain at $58.2 cents per $100 in property value.

“My goal, in preparing this budget, was to recommend a budget that would continue to enable the delivery of services without interruption, while doing it at limited cost,” he told the board.

Next year’s budget, as proposed by county administrators, totals $74,707,941, a considerable increase from the current budget of $71,458,974, an increase Knopf said is due to debt service that will come due next year.

“This is primarily attributed to one thing,” he said. “We’ll have a payment on a $2.2 million loan we took out in 2001 for improvements to Tharrington and Copeland elementary schools. That payment will be due in June, so that accounts for a large part of the increase.”

Knopf said the funds to repay the loan will come out of fund balance, where it has been sitting for years accruing interest.

According to the county manager, the loan payment is largely responsible for an increased fund balance allocation. Next year, the county is proposing to appropriate $7,575,748 out of its fund balance of $25.8 million. This year, the county allocated around $5.5 million from its unrestricted fund balance.

According to Knopf, subtracting the loan repayment means the county is allocating nearly the same amount this year.

“With the $2.2 million coming out of fund balance, that makes the appropriation much larger than last year, but if you take that out the appropriation is nearly the same,” Knopf said, noting that this year the county appropriated $5,570,459 out of fund balance, money that county officials believe went largely unspent.

Knopf added that it would likely be October, when the county’s annual audit is presented, before he knows exactly how much of the allocated $5.5 million was spent.

The county’s proposed budget also recommends keeping the per-pupil allocation to the county’s three school district steady at the current $1,075 per student. It also recommends maintaining the $50 per-student capital outlay allocation as well as the $40 per-student technology outlay.

“We want to take care of our schools as much as we can, but in a nutshell these budgets are driven by capital needs and how much we can address in a given year,” Knopf said.

Knopf’s budget proposal also includes an allocation of $1,918,275 to address roofing needs at Elkin Elementary, Tharrington Primary, North Surry High and Flat Rock Elementary schools, and an allocation of $440,000 to continue a project to replace HVAC equipment on the main campus of Surry Community College.

He also recommends an allocation of $546,856 to fund two replacement ambulances, a light rescue vehicle, four new patrol cars for middle school resource officers, five patrol car replacement, an emergency transfer vehicle and cameras for patrol cars in the county.

Keith Strange can be reached at 336-719-1929 or via Twitter @strangereporter.