County plan keeps tax rate

First Posted: 1/15/2009

LUMBERTON - County Manager Ken Windley's proposed budget keeps the tax rate at 80 cents for every $100 of property.
Windley unveiled the $126.8 million budget Monday night. The proposal is $1.4 million more than the fiscal 2005-06 budget. The board took no action.
The county was able drop the tax rate last year from 91 cents based on a 43 percent increase in the tax base that resulted from new tax values. The tax base came in at $5.3 billion, the same figure used last year when it was &#8220estimated.” The tax base was $3.6 billion before revaluation.
&#8220This year we estimate nothing will change,” Windley said.
A person with a home valued at $100,000 would have paid the county $910 in property taxes before valuation. But if that same home is now valued at $140,000, the property owner will pay $1,120 in taxes.
The budget does not call for any major capital projects.
There are several proposed fee increases, including a jump from $300 to $400 for a ride in an ambulance and a hike in housing inspections. The proposal also doubles the annual solid waste fee, from $30 per household to $60. Windley said the county's solid waste fee has not been increased in more than 13 years.
Under the spending plan, all employees receive a 2 percent cost of living increase. Some will get more as the county enters the third year of five-year plan to get county employees up to competitive wages.
The proposal adds four new positions: a tax collection clerk, Water Customer Service clerk and two officers for the pre-trail release program.
A second assistant county manager position, which was budgeted for last year but never filled, remains. Windley said he hopes to fill the position in the next couple months.
Windley said the county will also receive some state funding for Medicaid. The county paid about $12.5 million this year. The budget sets aside $10.4 million for Medicaid for the next fiscal year.
Windley said the current state proposal would give $3.4 million to Robeson County, but he is skeptical that the county will receive anything at all.
&#8220I'd be amazed,” he said. &#8220They said they would give us money last year, and they pulled it at the last minute.”
Windley said, if the county does not receive any state aid, it will pull the money from the reserve fund to meet the Medicaid obligation.
The board reviewed the proposed budget for more than an hour. It is expected to hold its next budget workshop on May 22. The board expects to adopt the budget on June 19, following a public hearing.
The board also:
– Postponed selection of a county health insurance plan. The board will either stay with Blue Cross, its current provider, or switch to CIGNA, the new provider for the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners.
– Approved an application for a $350,000 state grant that would be used to build a training facility for new and expanding industries.
n Asked Windley to seek state aid for 26 residents who have storm-damaged property, but did not receive assistance from FEMA.

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