06/16/09 — Duplin OKs 2009 budget

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Duplin OKs 2009 budget

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on June 16, 2009 1:46 PM

The Duplin County Commissioners got a round of applause from the audience Monday night following unanimous approval of the $57.1 million 2009-10 county budget.

"There's not a member of the board, there's not a citizen in this community that's completely happy with the decisions this board of county commissioners had to make," Commissioner David Fussell said, "This was the best compromise -- and it was a compromise on everyone's part -- that we could come up with."

The property tax rate was set at the revenue-neutral rate of .6943 cents per $100 worth of property. The current tax rate is 79 cents.

As a result of the 2009 revaluation, Duplin County's total assessed valuation went up from $3.16 billion in 2008-09 to approximately $3.7 billion for 2009-10, according to county calculations.

The average increase of value of Duplin property is close to 3 percent, said County Manager Mike Aldridge.

"We are growing at least at a moderate pace," Aldridge said.

The budget includes a total allocation of $10.1 million for the county schools. For the first time, contributions to public schools will be allocated by "purpose codes" designating the funding for specific purposes.

The board marked $350,000 for regular instructional services, $500,000 for co-curricular services, $362,040 for technology support services, $5,577,960 for operational support services and $210,000 for financial and human resource services.

The budget also includes $727,529 for capital reserve, $200,000 for high school recreation, $50,000 for elementary recreation, $340,000 for improvements to sites, $463,000 for capital equipment and furniture, $170,000 for capital vehicles, $1,239,422 is transfer to debt service.

Signs of the difficult economy are evident in the 2009-10 budget. Sales tax revenues are budgeted at $4.1 million, nearly $2 million less than in 2008-09. Travel and capital outlay was cut in "practically every department" and collections of prior year taxes is budgeted at $900,000, a reduction of $100,000 compared to fiscal year 2008-09, Aldridge pointed out.

The only final change made from the previous budget discussion was the decision to eliminate four vacant paramedic positions in order to reclassify paramedics two pay grades.

"You can't operate a paramedic service without paramedics," Aldridge said.

Although the economic situation in Duplin County and across the nation is likely to get worse before it gets better, Aldridge said.

"The (tax) rate's going to be under a lot of pressure," he said.

The commissioners agreed that working out this year's budget presented a unique challenge.

"We've spent more time on our budget this year than we ever have," said board member Zettie Williams.

But the board members came together to come up with a solution they could all vote on, said commissioner Francis Parks.

"I'd just like to echo that it's our budget," she emphasized.

Despite the ongoing debate between the Duplin County Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners, "there was not a lot of negative emotion in the process," said board member Reginald Wells.