06/05/13 — County will take look at budget

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County will take look at budget

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 5, 2013 1:46 PM

Wayne County taxpayers can expect to receive a slightly lower property tax bill in August if the county's commissioners go along with an almost three-cent drop in the county tax rate proposed Tuesday evening by County Manager Lee Smith.

Smith has recommended commissioners reduce the tax rate from the current 70.25 cents per $100 worth of property value to 67.5 cents -- a decrease of 2.75 cents.

A person with a house and property valued at $100,000 would pay $702.50 in taxes based on the current rate. If the new rate of 67.5 cents is approved, the amount owed would be $675 for a savings of $27.50.

However, people and/or companies that make extensive use of the county landfill would help offset those lost tax revenues through an increase in the tipping fee.

There are no fee increases except for the landfill tipping fee, which would increase from $30 per ton to $31.5 to cover expenses associated with a new electronic recycling program and changes in the overall recycling program.

Smith officially presented the proposed 2013-14 budget, tax rate and his budget message to commissioners at their Tuesday evening session.

State law requires the budget proposal be presented to commissioners by June 1. Copies were delivered to board members late Friday afternoon, Smith said.

The gross budget of $161 million is slightly more than the $159 million that was originally budgeted for 2012-13. However, since the July 1 start of the current budget year, amendments have increased it to what is anticipated to be a final total of just over $181 million.

However, Smith said that a more accurate figure to use when talking about budget totals is the net budget amount of $120,127,740 compared to the current $121,288,782 -- a reduction of $1,161,042 to lower the tax rate.

The differences between the gross and net figures are grants and "pass-through" funds the county administers, but that are not locally generated, he said.

According to the proposal, county department requests had totaled $179.9 million.

Included in that total is $6.43 million the Wayne County Public Schools had requested for capital outlay maintenance. The draft budget includes only $2 million for small works projects.

The board will hold the first of two budget work sessions Thursday. Commissioners had been scheduled to hold the second work session next Tuesday. However, the board voted Tuesday to move the session to Monday because of a scheduling conflict.

Both sessions will be held from 8 a.m. until noon. The meetings are open to the public, but public comments will not be taken.

Those comments are reserved for a public hearing on the budget planned for June 18 at 9:30 a.m.

The board Tuesday also voted to hold a special session on June 25 at 9 a.m. to consider adopting the budget.

All of the meetings will be held in the commissioners' meeting room on the fourth floor of the county courthouse annex.

Commissioners did not comment on the budget proposal, tax rate or Smith's budget message.

But Sheriff Carey Winders said during the public comments portion of the meeting that he knows people are living in "tough times" and that "tough decisions" are going to have to be made.

Winders said his office has been able to use proceeds from the sale of seized property to help pay for vehicles and other equipment.

"I realize that you took oaths to be good stewards to this county," he said. "You made promises to help the taxpaying citizens, and I understand that. But also realize that I made promises to citizens, too.

"I took an oath that I would protect and serve them and provide adequate protection. During this budget process, I know you will be talking and going through some things and as the Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger said, 'I will be back.'"

Just minutes later, Winders' implied need for more resources was echoed by Harry Hill of Dudley.

Hill said his home had been broken into twice and large-screen televisions taken. There have been other break-ins in the area as well.

It takes officers a while to arrive because there is no substation, and crooks know that, he said.

Hill said Winders is a good sheriff, but that more officers are needed in the county.

"So if you will please consider giving him more in his budget," he said.