County budget to hold tax line


First Posted: 5/27/2009

LUMBERTON The Robeson County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday put the final pieces together for a proposed fiscal year 2009-10 budget that will not raise property taxes or require laying off any county employees, and actually provides for a dozen new positions.
County Manager Ken Windley will formally present the $145 million budget when the commissioners hold their next regular meeting on Monday. A public hearing on the budget is slated for June 15.
Were concerned about efficiency and stretching the dollar, Commissioner Raymond Cummings said. I would love to see a reduction in property taxes, but efficiency is the next best thing.
According to Windley, the proposed $145 million budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 totals about the same as the current budget. He said it includes a general fund of about $103 million and an unappropriated fund balance of 21 percent.
The budget not only holds the tax rate at 80 cents per $100 of property valuation and maintains all current employees, but allows for two major capital projects and the hiring of 12 new employees.
The capital projects include construction of a new $19 million Social Services building, and construction of a $3 million to $4 million emergency operations center. New employees include a tourism developer, eight jailers, a zoning enforcement official, an interpreter for the Social Services department, and a part-time clerk for the Veterans Affairs department.
The manager attributes the ability to keep the property tax rate stable and not have to lay off employees to conservative fiscal management.
We are always very conservative, he said. We have been very conservative in our hiring and our revenue projections.
Windley said that he is fairly comfortable with the proposed budget.
I would like to have seen us able to fund the parking lot at the courthouse, but maybe we can do that next year, he said.
Kellie Blue, the countys finance director, told the commissioners that many of the states 100 counties have not been as fortunate as Robeson during the current sour economy.
I talk with a lot of financial people in surrounding counties, and in every county there is a reduction in force, Blue said. They are not just eliminating positions. They are losing people.
The commissioners praised Windley and his staff for meeting their directive that the budget not increase taxes or require a reduction in the number of county employees.
I appreciate what Mr. Ken and his staff have put into this considering all of the constraints they were dealing with, said Commissioner Noah Woods, the boards chairman. We have not had to lay off employees and that says a lot.
Although he admits it was difficult putting together the upcoming budget, Windley said it was not the most difficult budget he has ever had to develop. The most difficult budget year, he said, was in 2001-02 when former Gov. Mike Easley took back from the counties state reimbursements in order to shore up a state budget shortfall.
I was manager of Davie County at the time, and the amount of reimbursements the governor took from the county about $1.8 million was equivalent to 8 cents on the property tax, Windley said. Now that was the toughest budget I ever had to deal with.

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