05/25/07 — Duplin commissioners continue to adjust 2007-08 budget

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Duplin commissioners continue to adjust 2007-08 budget

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on May 25, 2007 1:45 PM

The Duplin County Board of Commissioners continued to make adjustments to the proposed county budget during its work session Thursday, focusing on the county's economic development commission and tax department.

The commissioners instructed county Manager Mike Aldridge to develop a budget that would cut the existing tax rate from 80.5 cents per $100 worth of property to 79 cents and to use no more than $1.85 from reserve accounts.

That doesn't leave much wiggle room, but several commissioners have also said they want to give at least some county employees a small raise.

On Thursday, they agreed to raise salaries for employees in the county tax department, but not after some discussion.

Tax Director Gary Rose had asked for $65,000 in next year's budget to give his employees raises. Commis-sioner Chairman David Fussell said that was too much and suggested $41,500.

"I think a $41,000 increase shows good faith on our part and that's all the county manager feels we can do," Fussell said.

A majority of the commissioners agreed with Rose, however, and voted to approve the higher figure.

Fussell reminded them of the need to save money at every turn if they are to stick with their tax reduction goal without dipping more heavily into reserves.

"If we spend anymore money, we're going to have to increase taxes or spend more money from our fund balance," he said.

In other budget action, Commissioner Reginald Wells made a motion to reinstate Economic Development Com-mission Chairman Woody Brinson's salary into the budget through January 2008 -- when Brinson had said he would retire. Commissioners earlier voted to eliminate the commission and Brinson's job as of July 1. Wells' motion did not make to a vote.

Commissioners Cary Turner and Fussell said they would not be willing to make a decision on Well's suggestion until a fiscal advisory committee meets on May 30.

Commissioner Zettie Williams, who was not present when the board voted to eliminate Brinson's job, called the decision an "embarrassment."

The commissioners were to continue discussing the budget today, focusing on requests from the Sheriff's Office for salary increases and new vehicles.