06/16/10 — Commissioners approve county budget

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Commissioners approve county budget

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 16, 2010 1:46 PM

Wayne County Commissioners unanimously approved a $156 million budget for 2010-11 on Tuesday.

The budget keeps the tax rate at 76.4 cents per $100 worth of property. Property and unrestricted sales taxes will account for $63.421 million of the budget's revenues.

The spending plan also continues into a fourth year freeze on most jobs and major capital projects. There is no cost-of-living increase for county employees.

Prior to voting, commissioners held a public hearing on the spending plan. But the only speaker was less interested in the budget than in criticizing county Manager Lee's Smith's salary and job performance.

C.V. Sutton questioned why Smith, whom he said is paid more than $160,000 plus $12,000 in travel, would receive a pay increase when the rank-and-file of county employees would not. Sutton said he was speaking on behalf of property owners in the county who could not attend the meeting. Smith confirmed that according to his contract he is receiving a 5 percent pay increase this year.

After he spoke, Commis-sioner Jack Best tried to answer his questions but Sutton ignored him and left the room. Best said he had talked with Sutton about Smith's salary on several previous occasions. He noted that Sutton had questioned why he (Sutton) ran into Smith at Wal-Mart during a workday and said he was concerned that Sutton might be "stalking" the county manager.

Sutton later denied following Smith around and said he accidentally met him at the store.

Commissioner John Bell also defended Smith and his work, saying Smith had saved the county money on many occasions.

Most of the comments about the budget came from Commissioner Steve Keen, who reiterated concerns about the county's preliminary capital improvement plan, including $4 million for a new shell building, $1.2 million for the county's economic Development Alliance and contingency funds.

Keen expressed those same feelings during the board's budget workshop. He said that was the only area of the budget that concerns him.

Smith told Keen that the $4 million had not been budgeted and that items on the preliminary capital improvement plans were just a "possibility."

In any case, the final decision to spend the money lies with commissioners, Smith said.

Keen said he understands that and the importance of economic development, but that the state budget is going to face a $3 billion shortfall that will affect the county budget.

He questioned whether the shell building should be moved "further down the food chain." Also, rather than building a shell building, computers could be used to create virtual buildings to show to potential clients, he said.

Keen said he did not want the shell building to become a taxpayer-funded project.

Commissioner Andy Anderson said the county had been working to help local businesses.

"A lot of people think you should not spend any money," he said. "That is a false idea. The county does a lot to help get businesses started here. If you didn't do anything then 74.6 (cents tax rate) times zero equals zero. That will be the increase if we did nothing."

Businesses create jobs and build the tax base, he said.

Three departments account for more than half, $81 million, of the budget. They are public safety, human services and education totaling $24.6 million, $30.4 million and $26.398 million respectively.

Other major expenditures include:

*$15,614, 330, general government

*$5,975,029, utilities

*$3,636,941, economic/ physical development

*$2,086,324, debt service

*$1,598,580, cultural and recreation.

*$1,038,540, transportation.

Revenue sources include:

*$18,618,771, state and federal and restricted governmental

*$14,154,582, fees and miscellaneous revenue

*$10,698,004, fund balance

*$4,485,834, restricted sales tax.

The budget will go into effect July 1.