05/31/07 — Duplin to pull more money from reserves

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Duplin to pull more money from reserves

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on May 31, 2007 1:45 PM

KENANSVILLE -- The Duplin County Board of Commissioners approved more spending from the county's reserves Wednesday afternoon, bringing the total spent out of next year's fund balance to about $3.35 million.

Earlier this year, the commissioners charged County Manager Mike Aldridge with lowering Duplin's property tax rate from 80.5 cents to 79 cents per $100 valuation while spending only $1.85 million from reserves.

But several decisions made last week during budget sessions and more on Wednesday has made that goal unrealistic, Commissioner Reginald Wells said.

Commissioner Cary Turner presented a motion to the board, which was unanimously approved, that would allocate $184,000 to the sheriff's office to replace eight vehicles. Kristy Brinson, an employee with the sheriff's office, said the new vehicles are at a discounted price until June 12, which means the commissioners may have to find the money to pay for them in this year's budget.

Once the money is found in this year's budget, Aldridge said the board would have to approve a budget amendment so the vehicles could be bought quickly.

In the same motion, Turner asked the board to consider providing an additional $100,000 to James Sprunt Community College and $750,000 to the Duplin Board of Education. Both entities were not expected to receive additional increases in the next fiscal year.

The $750,000 for Duplin's public schools was labeled restricted until the commissioners and school board meet to discuss how much of the money will be needed for program supplies and what amount can be used facility improvements.

"I just think it's wrong that teachers have to buy supplies for the classroom," Turner said.

Turner's motion also included restoring the county's parks and recreation department, which was expected to be dismantled as of July 1. The department will receive the same funding as last year and its employees will receive a 2 percent salary increase, which totals about $65,000.

Wednesday's approved allocations come on the heels of decisions last week by the board to provide more money for the county's emergency services and fire departments.

Earlier this month, the commissioners considered replacing several ambulance stations -- in Chinquapin, Kenansville and Pleasant Grove -- with quick response vehicles that would carry the same medical equipment as an ambulance but not provide transportation.

Following public outcry, the commissioners voted last week to reinstate all of the ambulance stations at a cost of about $372,000.

The commissioners also approved last week to provide each of the county's 20 fire departments with a 14 percent increase in allocations. Each department currently receives $20,777.01 annually. The 14-percent increase now gives each department $23,685.80, or more than $58,000 collectively for the departments.

Despite concerns by some of the commissioners that the county was spending too much from the fund balance and other contingency funds, the county property tax rate is still expected to be 79 cents per $100 valuation.

But Commission Chairman David Fussell has said that the rash of recent spending from the fund balance will create a budget difficult to approve.

The public will have a chance to comment on the budget at a public hearing at 6 p.m. Monday in the Duplin Commons Auditorium.