05/19/09 — Duplin will eye proposals for 2009-10 budget

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Duplin will eye proposals for 2009-10 budget

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on May 19, 2009 1:46 PM

KENANSVILLE -- The Duplin County Board of Commissioners will meet this week with department heads to hammer out details in the $47.1 million budget that County Manager Mike Aldridge offered up Monday.

Although the proposed budget is $2.1 million more than the current year's budget, Aldridge told commissioners it falls short of providing badly needed services.

"This budget is not something everybody will feel good about, but nobody will lose their jobs," Aldridge said.

The proposed budget is based on a 70-cent ad valorem tax rate.

The current tax rate is 79 cents on every $100 worth of property. Aldridge said he lowered the proposed tax rate to make up for a recent property revaluation, which raised many property owners' tax bills significantly.

Aldridge said this proposed budget is revenue neutral, which means the tax rate has been adjusted to generate the exact same amount of tax revenue that the old values generated during the current year with the 79-cent rate.

But it is not enough to provide the public school system the requested $12.5 million in local money for the next school year. The $12.5 million includes $4.8 million that a court awarded the schools this past year.

Commissioners said they don't have the money this year, and they won't have it next year. The county has appealed the case, and Commissioner David Fussell said that decision could come at any time. And if the county loses, he said, funding the schools another $4.8 million could cost the taxpayers "a 15-cent tax increase."

The proposed budget provides $7.7 million for the schools -- the same they received last year.

School officials are scheduled to meet with commissioners Wednesday to discuss their requested budget.

And on Thursday, Sheriff Blake Wallace is scheduled to meet with commissioners to discuss his budget request. Wallace has asked for new employees, 15 replacement vehicles and other equipment. Aldridge's proposed budget for the sheriff's office is $500,000 less than requested for operations and $500,000 less than requested for the jail.

Other department heads also will be heard Thursday and Friday.

Before the budget is adopted, a public hearing will be held in the Cooperative Extension auditorium at Duplin Commons on June 1 at 6 p.m. Commissioners are expected to adopt the new budget at their June 15 meeting.