DOBSON — Surry County residents will see no increase in the countywide property tax rate if a proposed budget is passed.
At Monday’s meeting of the Surry County Board of Commissioners, County Manager Chris Knopf proposed to keep the county’s property tax rate at 58.2 cents per every $100 in property value.
As part of his budget message, Knopf included the property tax rates of surrounding counties. Surry’s rate is lower than that of Stokes County (62 cents), Yadkin County (66 cents) and Wilkes County (67 cents).
The budget, if approved, would fund $76,993,814 in expenditures.
While the figure is reflective of a 3.2-percent increase over the 2016-17 fiscal year’s $74.5 million budget, Commissioner Larry Phillips noted a large debt payment accounts for much of the increase in expenditures.
Knopf explained that a balloon payment, a large payment often made at the end of a loan term, is due in the 2017-18 fiscal year. The debt was incurred as a QZAB loan for school capital projects, which are loans with no or low interest rates from the state. A little more than $2 million is due in the upcoming fiscal year, and though the county has been setting monies aside in every budget leading up to the 2017-18 fiscal year, the actual expenditure is reflected in that budget.
“Without that QZAB expenditure, this budget would grow expenditures by less than 0ne percent,” said Phillips, as he applauded Knopf and county staff for their work in preparing the budget. “That is less than the rate of inflation.”
Knopf’s budget would also fund various school capital projects to the tune of nearly $1.3 million. However, it would provide no increases to the regular per-pupil funding each of the county’s three public school systems receive.
Each of the districts had asked for increases to those lines of funding.
“If you would, please email this budget to the schools,” said Harris, who in past budget cycles has advocated for increased funding for the county’s school districts.
The budget includes a two-percent cost of living salary increase for county employees and $348,000 to implement a new pay plan in the Surry County Sheriff’s Office. It would also fund capital items such as three new ambulances, five police cruisers and a vehicle to transport prisoners to and from the Surry County Detention Center.
Following a closed session, commissioners recessed their meeting, and the board will reconvene on Tuesday at 6 p.m. for a final budget workshop.
Knopf and commissioners indicated much could be decided at that meeting.
Knopf said a fire districts committee, comprised of two county commissioners, will relay its findings regarding requests from various volunteer fire departments for increased fire district property tax rates. The six departments which made their cases for a rate increase cited the implementation of a paid firefighter program as justification for increases.
Knopf’s budget message also indicates the board will consider requests from the Elkin City Schools and Mount Airy City Schools for increases to the special property tax the two local districts use to fund their operations.
The board may have more to discuss, however.
“We are close to there, but not quite there yet,” said Commissioner Van Tucker.
Harris inquired as to how the board might go about scheduling a second budget work session before June 30, the date by which the next fiscal year’s budget must be approved.
“I think we should just plan to meet and see how it goes,” said Knopf after explaining a number of ways the board could reconvene for a second budget work session.
By statute, a public hearing on the county manager’s proposed budget must be held. That hearing is traditionally set on the agenda at the board’s final meeting prior to the start of the next fiscal year, which will take place on June 19.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.