06/22/05 — Duplin officials approve

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Duplin officials approve

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on June 22, 2005 1:45 PM

WARSAW -- Duplin County commissioners approved a county budget Monday night for 2005-06 that does not increase the current property tax rate of 77 cents per $100 worth of property.

The vote was unanimous.

Commissioner Chairman Reginald Wells said developing a workable budget had proven a difficult task. Commissioners raised taxes for the past two years. This year they used $2.6 million from reserve accounts to help avoid another hike. County Manager Fred Eldridge said the county cannot continue to turn to its reserves to maintain operations.

"We cannot continue to spend our savings," Eldridge said.

County employees will receive no wage increases, and there will be no increases in the water bills or water tap-on fees. The solid waste disposal fee for a household remains at $90 per year. Commissioners said they are continuing to look for ways to lower that charge.

The overall net budget will be $55 million as opposed to the previous budget of $49.6 million. The $55 million includes fire and water districts and enterprise funds such as solid waste, transportation and the airport. User fees pay for their operations.

Eldridge said increases in costs like an additional $185,000 in health insurance premiums and an additional $195,000 for workers compensation insurance were absorbed into the budget. The county receives 11 percent more sales tax revenue next year, but with the insurance increases, he said, "the sales tax is used up, gone."

The $42.6 million general fund makes up 72 percent of the county's total budget, and property taxes make up 42 percent of the total revenue in the general fund.

The largest slice of the general fund, $16.8 million or about 40 percent, goes to human services such as Social Services, the Health Department and Services for the Aged. Another $9.2 million goes to public safety, which includes the Sheriff's Office, the jail and emergency services. Education, which includes the public schools and James Sprunt Community College, will receive $7.5 million.

The budget includes the first $750,000 payment on the new Duplin Commons agribusiness complex and the first year's operation cost of $457,000.

The county's first $340,000 payment on the courthouse repairs will come due in the next fiscal year, Eldridge said. Seven replacement vehicles for the Sheriff's Office will cost an estimated $155,000. Another $77,000 has been set aside for new voting machines.

The budget included increases in the Albertson and Franklin fire district tax rates, with Albertson's rate going up 2.5 cents and Franklin's increasing 1 cent.