06/24/13 — County weighs vote on budget

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County weighs vote on budget

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 24, 2013 1:46 PM

Wayne County commissioners were scheduled to meet in special session today to review the more than $500 million in suggested budget cuts made during 17 hours of budget workshops spread out over two days earlier this month.

Commissioners are scheduled to follow up on the afternoon session with a Tuesday morning meeting to consider adoption of the $161 million budget.

The Tuesday session had been set for 9 a.m., but has been rescheduled for 10 a.m. in the commissioners' meeting room on the fourth floor of the county courthouse annex.

The meeting is open to the public.

The initial proposed net budget is $120,127,740 compared to the current net budget of $121,288,782 -- a reduction of $1,161,042. The difference between gross and net budget totals is the sum of the grants and other funds that pass through the county, but are not generated locally.

The proposal reduces the tax rate from 70.25 cents per $100 of property value to 67.5 cents. For a property owner with a house and lot valued at $100,000, that translates into a savings of about $27.50 on their next tax bill.

The proposed budget calls for an increase in the landfill tipping fee from $30 per ton to $31.50 to cover expenses associated with a new electronics recycling program and changes in the overall recycling program.

There are no other proposed fee increases.

Neither the tax rate nor the landfill fee generated interest during last Tuesday's public hearing on the budget. Instead, the majority of those who spoke lobbied for a new Grantham Middle School or for the Arts Council of Wayne County.

Neither is included in the budget proposal.

During the earlier budget work sessions, commissioners, mostly Republicans Joe Daughtery and Steve Keen, suggested the bulk of the more than $500 million in possible cuts.

Office supplies and professional services were their favorite targets, but the cuts also include a possible 15 percent reduction in commissioner pay.

Some of those potential savings could be offset by the addition of $170,000 for a mobile dental clinic and up to $300,000 for mental health services, both of which were cut by County Manager Lee Smith when he originally prepared his 2013-14 budget recommendation.

Tuesday morning's meeting also will include a work session with Davenport & Co. officials on the county's possible capital improvement plan that could total between $242 million and $254 million over the next 10 years.

It would include schools, an agricultural center, improvements to existing county-owned facilities, as well as some new ones and smaller "pay-as-you-go" projects.

The plan has not yet been drafted and the projects would be paid for through a mixture of cash and financing.

Davenport is the consulting firm that assists the county in financial planning for capital improvement projects, including schools.