06/17/07 — Duplin will eye budget Monday

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Duplin will eye budget Monday

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on June 17, 2007 2:00 AM

The Duplin County Board of Commissioners is expected to approve its $47.5 million 2007-08 budget Monday night.

Meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the Duplin Commons Auditorium, the commissioners will likely bring to a close a debate that has been at times acrimonious during the last several weeks.

Included in the budget is a reduced tax rate -- cut from 80.5 cents to 79 cents per $100 property value -- and a proposal to draw $3.35 million from the fund balance.

Originally, the commissioners wanted to only draw down $1.85 million, but after increasing appropriations to the county fire departments, emergency medical services, sheriff's office, parks and recreation, economic development, James Sprunt Community College and Duplin County Public Schools, they found that they were going to need the extra funding.

Of that $47.5 million, the school system is scheduled to receive an increase from last year of $750,000 for program supplies and facility improvements. Initially no increase had been planned.

James Sprunt also was not scheduled for an increase, but will instead receive an additional $100,000 for a series of campus improvements as the college goes through the re-accreditation process next year.

Another $184,000 will go to the sheriff's office, while parks and recreation will get about $65,000 after commissioners decided not to shut it down.

The county's economic development department will also continue to function beyond July 1, despite an earlier decision to the contrary.

A similar public outcry also prevented the commissioners from following through with a plan to replace several ambulance stations -- in Chinquapin, Kenansville and Pleasant Grove -- with quick response vehicles that would carry the same medical equipment as an ambulance but would not provide transportation. The decision to keep all eight stations is coming at an additional cost of about $372,000.

Then, once the budget is in place, the board will take up the rest of its agenda, including a discussion about how Cabin Lake Park should be operated this summer, looking at its hours, use, promotion, needed improvements and the possibility of issuing seasonal passes.

Also on the agenda is a proposal to address a long-standing concern about how engineers other than county consulting firm McDavid Associates should be allowed to design private water lines to tie into the county's system.

In addition, the commissioners are expected to take the next step toward running a water line to the Kenansville bypass to serve Carolina East Home Care and Hospice's proposed facility and to discuss a grant received by the Rural Empowerment Association to study the effects of the county's hog industry on residents.