DOBSON — The Surry County Board of Commissioners held a fourth budget work session last night, and the commissioners had little to say that differed from the county manager’s recommendations.
The commissioners discussed fire district tax rates during the meeting, and it was the general consensus of the board to stick with Thompson’s recommendation not to increase any rates. Commissioner Craig Hunter was not present at the meeting to give his opinion.
According to Board Chairman Paul Johnson, a few volunteer fire departments are still requesting increases. Through discussions with commissioners, fire department officials have expressed the need for tax increases. Wednesday night, Johnson reported that Franklin is requesting a 2-cent increase, Bannertown is requesting 4 cents, Skull Camp 1 cent and Westfield 1 1/2 cents.
Johnson explained that in the future Bannertown may have to build a new fire department, because its current building is on Holly Springs land where the airport expansion is slated to take place.
Of Bannertown’s request, Johnson said, “I don’t think this is quite as big an emergency. It’s just planning for down the road ... They could probably live with 2 cents.”
After discussing the departments’ requests during the work session, the board did not advise Thompson to change any of the rates in the recommended budget. The commissioners did point out, though, that the budget will not be approved until after a public hearing is held, so rates are not yet finalized.
In original budget discussions with fire departments in April, Franklin was uncertain of its needs at the time and Bannertown was asking for a 1.5-cent increase. Skull Camp and Westfield departments’ requests remain the same.
Following the commissioners’ work session Wednesday night, Bannertown Fire Chief Scottie Chilton said, “We are not requesting a 4-cent increase. But we are requesting a 1.5-cent increase to lower the insurance rating that will lower homeowners’ insurance by 15 to 20 percent and also to build a new station due to the airport expansion in Holly Springs.”
The commissioners also worked last night to find funds in the budget to cover a few items that were left out of the original budget recommendation. These included funds for Dobson equipment for water system maintenance and funds for the public works department to purchase used equipment. County staff found ways to add these into the department budgets without changing the bottom line budget number.
During the first half of the meeting, the commissioners voted to increase health insurance premiums of county employees by 5 percent. If employees take part in the county’s wellness program, then the premium increase will be absorbed by the county. The commissioners accomplished this by increasing the premium discount for wellness members from 5 percent to 10 percent.
“That puts it right in their hands,” said Commissioner Bill Hamlin. “They can save money.”
The wellness plan has additional health monitoring requirements for participants, and a little more than half of county employees now take part in the wellness program.
On Monday night, the board will hold a public hearing regarding the proposed 2010-2011 budget. The hearing is scheduled to take place shortly after the meeting begins at 6 p.m. Meetings of the Surry County Board of Commissioners are held at the Surry County Government Center.
Contact Meghann Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.