DOBSON — The county’s tax rate will remain the same if commissioners approve the county manager’s recommended budget in its current form.
Monday night County Manager Chris Knopf told the Surry County Board of Commissioners he has balanced the budget using the current county property tax rate of 58.2-cents per $100 in value.
Knopf also noted the tax rate is lower than neighboring counties.
While Knopf’s recommended budget for the upcoming fiscal year grows county expenditures by a little more than half of a percent to $74,390,679 in the 2016-17 budget cycle, Knopf said an increase to the tax rate wasn’t necessary. The county is projected to see a slight increase in property tax revenues and a larger increase in sales tax revenues.
In the current budget year, Knopf used about $6.6 million of general fund balance to balance the budget. The recommended budget for the budget year beginning next month only uses about $4.4 million in fund balance.
Prefacing his remarks by telling commissioners county department heads only request what they absolutely need, Knopf said some things needed to be addressed in the upcoming budget year.
Knopf’s budget would put $1,326,350 toward school capital projects, including roofing projects at North Surry High School, Gentry Middle School and Copeland Elementary School, paving projects at 17 different campuses in the county district and a heating and cooling system replacement at Mount Airy Middle School.
Commissioner Larry Phillips questioned County Attorney Ed Woltz about the legalities of consolidating multiple school projects into a single bid package, in hopes of garnering a better rate.
Woltz said he knew of no statute which states the three school systems couldn’t consolidate work into single bid packages.
“They worked together to hit us with a $170 million (facilities) study, but they can’t work together to conserve money for the Surry County taxpayer,” said Phillips.
The county’s three school systems would also see a $10 per student bump in their current expenses funding under Knopf’s budget, equating to an additional expense to the county of about $100,000.
The recommended budget includes $505,000 for vehicle replacement, equipment and HVAC work at Surry Community College.
The list of vehicle needs in crucial public safety areas was long. Sheriff Graham Atkinson requested the county replace 10 vehicles with more than 120,000 miles on them and two transport vans for the jail.
He will see that request partially funded if commissioners approve Knopf’s proposed budget.
The budget allocates $562,626 for three replacement ambulance chassis in the EMS department. Atkinson’s department would get six new patrol cars, the two prisoner transport vehicles and additional dash-cams for patrol cars.
In the area of economic development, the budget would allocate $705,472 for a continued expansion project at the Mount Airy-Surry County Airport. The county would also make its normal annual contribution of $155,000 to the Surry County Economic Development Partnership.
More that $500,000 will go toward debt payments associated with the Interstates sewer project, which is set to wrap up in July.
More than $450,000 would be allocated for the Northwest Regional Library system, and the Elkin Valley Trails Association would get $13,500. The Surry and Foothills Arts Councils would receive $11,115 and $5,985, respectively, and $20,000 would be allocated for a countywide anti-littering campaign.
While Knopf’s recommended budget included no tax increase, some county water and sewer customers will see a rise in their monthly bills.
Knopf’s budget includes a 7 percent fee hike in the Flat Rock/Bannertown and Elkin/Gentry Road Water and Sewer Districts. The increase is part of a five-year plan to get the districts’ rates to a level in which they are funding themselves.
“Eventually, they should pay their own way, and actually generate some funds for future use,” noted Knopf.
The recommended budget also included a 2 percent salary increase for county employees.
Knopf noted last year county employees received a 1.5-percent raise, but prior to that, workers received their last salary adjustment before the 2008 recession.
Commissioners scheduled a final budget work session for June 16 at 6 p.m. at the county government center.
A public hearing will occur at the board’s June 20 meeting, and the recommended budget is available at the government center for review.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.