06/19/05 — Where tax dollars come from and where they go

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Where tax dollars come from and where they go

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on June 19, 2005 2:01 AM

In any household budget, there some items that are up for debate, others that are not. You might have leeway in how much money you spend on clothing or entertainment but the electric bill has to be paid in full, no questions asked.

The Wayne County budget is no different. County officials have some discretion in how to spend taxpayer dollars, but in many areas they do not. They simply have to come up with the money or face penalties imposed by state or federal authorities. In other cases, county residents have asked for certain services, such as garbage disposal and help for senior citizens and veterans, and they expect the county to pay for them. It takes money to operate a county government, too. Every office and the grounds and parking lot around it has an electric bill and maintenance needs.

In some cases, the county simply serves as a clearinghouse for money. It collects money from various taxes, fees, state or federal appropriations or grants and passes the money on to the agency or organization for which it was intended.

County commissioners are currently considering an $85 million proposed budget for 2005-06. Even after hours of poring over expenses and looking for ways to trim costs, they have penciled in a tax increase of 7.5-cents for every $100 worth of taxable property. If it is approved, the owners of a $90,000 home will pay an extra $67.50.

A close look at the 350-page budget document reveals where county tax dollars come from and where they go.


Many county services are required by law. The county has to provide law enforcement, jail and emergency services, inspect new buildings, control animals running at large, maintain a health department, an elections system and provide social services for any county resident who qualifies for help. These are often referred to as "mandates" because they are mandated by the state or federal government. Their costs are like the homeowners' electric bill -- not up for discussion.

In the proposed budget, Wayne must come up with more than $25 million to help pay for social assistance for poor or sick residents or for children. Of the total amount of money needed, about half comes from local property taxes, the rest from state and federal sources. Medicaid alone is expected to cost Wayne taxpayers $7 million. The Health Department is expected to cost more than $7 million to operate, about $2 million of which comes from property taxes. Mental health services are expected to cost $1.2 million.

Law enforcement is both required by law and expected by residents. More than $5 million is budgeted for the Sheriff's Office, which has 80 employees. Gasoline for patrol cars alone is expected to cost more than $270,000. Operating a jail that consistently houses more than 200 prisoners and has 60 employees is expected to cost more than $3 million. Twenty-eight people work in the emergency services department. Along with equipment and power needs, that department is expected to cost more than $1.5 million to operate.

Other mandated programs include inspecting new houses and businesses to ensure they are constructed to state codes, keeping dogs from running loose and endangering the public, providing a register of deeds office that maintains crucial records, keeping a medical examiner on duty and supporting an elections office that ensures residents' constitutional rights at the ballot box. Those required services cost about $2 million every year.

Wayne is an agricultural county and it is required to provide an Extension Service office and help with its programs. Of the $1.4 million it costs to run the county Extension Service, about $450,000 comes from local taxes. The county also has to provide a soil conservation service, at a cost of about $200,000.

Operating a tax department to fairly and accurately adjust and levy taxes costs $1.2 million a year.


Wayne County residents have said they want some services that the state and federal government does not require. They include helping veterans and senior citizens and providing some transportation services, such as maintaining an airport and public bus system.

Senior programs cost about $800,000 this past year. Most of the money comes from state and federal sources but Wayne taxpayers had to come up with $150,000 from property taxes to help. The county Veterans Services Office cost about $90,000 to run.

It costs the county about $190,000 to maintain the Wayne and Mount Olive airports and about $250,000 to run the Goldsboro-Wayne Transportation Authority and its Gateway bus system. Some of this money is reimbursed by Raleigh and Washington.

The county spends $140,000 to support the city of Goldsboro's Travel and Tourism Department, the Wayne County Historical Association, the Arts Council, the Old Waynesborough Commission, and the Mount Olive and Goldsboro chambers of commerce.

The county also pays more than half a million dollars to support various agencies such as WAGES, the Lighthouse, Wayne Uplift, the W.I.S.H. health programs in schools, the Wayne Opportunity Center, Nutrition for the Elderly and Wayne Action Teams for Community Health.

The county will collect $8 million in fire district taxes and distribute the proceeds to the rural, volunteer-run fire departments throughout the county.

Wayne County Library will receive $884,000 to operate the main library in Goldsboro and several branch libraries in the county.


Simply keeping the county government running from day to day and prepared to head off potential problems has its own cost.

Management, including the county manager's office, the finance office and required audits, and the board of commissioners schedule, is expected to cost about $1 million. When you factor in the planning department, mapping, information technology, legal assistance, a personnel department and building and grounds crews and equipment, the cost jumps to more than $7 million a year.

Insurance for buildings, vehicles and worker's compensation for all county employees costs more than a million dollars a year.


Debts have to paid and the county still owes money it borrowed to build schools and renovate county buildings. About $2.4 million is being budgeted for that. County officials also are planning to set aside nearly $2 million to start payments on debts they expect to incur in the coming year. The money would be placed in reserve accounts for schools and for economic development incentives.


Providing a way for residents to dispose of tons of solid waste in a sanitary manner every day takes a staff or more than 50 people, as well as a great deal of equipment. The current year's budget was $4 million higher than the previous year to pay for a new landfill cell. Employee salaries and benefits are projected to cost about $420,000 next year. Much of the money comes from fees.


No part of the county budget gets more attention than education.

Although state and federal taxes pay for teacher salaries and many programs, the county is responsible for providing the necessary buildings and for keeping them in good shape.

Public school funding is split into two categories: current expense and capital expense. The former includes paying for additional salaries, benefits and programs and the latter is for new buildings and renovating existing ones.

The commissioners are considering allocating the same amount of money as they did this year for current expenses -- $16.6 million. They are proposing cutting the $2 million allocation for capital expenses by $500,000. But they also are planning to put aside $600,000 for school building needs. Commissioners also are putting up $122,000 for teacher scholarships.

The county has earmarked $2.35 million for Wayne Community College, a slight increase over the current year.


Officials say they cannot afford to allow other counties to get ahead of Wayne County in their efforts to lure new industry to their communities. More businesses and jobs mean a larger tax base upon which to draw.

In keeping with that goal, the county has budgeted $347,000 for a staff of four and a marketing campaign to attract investment to the county.

Officials also see a tie between the county's fortunes and the future of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

Therefore, the county has also projected $100,000 in matching funds to obtain a grant to protect land around the base.

The budget also calls for another $57,000 to further the efforts of the Seymour Support Council.