By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • County Manager Letitia Edens’ proposed 2021-2022 fiscal year budget does not include a tax increase or change in water or sewer fees, but does suggest an increase in solid waste fees, according to county documents.
Edens and county finance staff drew up the proposed budget after county department directors presented their budget requests at a three-day workshop with commissioners last month. The department directors had the chance during the workshop to speak with commissioners about their department’s needs for personnel, equipment and operating expenses for the upcoming fiscal year.
“The proposed budget is one that intends to maintain and support the current level of service while operating at the current tax rate of .75 (per 100),” Edens wrote in a summary of the manager’s recommend budget.
The recommended budget totals $57,610,706, an increase of about $3.8 million over the 2020-2021 recommended budget.
The proposal includes funding for adding nine new county positions, including in grant management, audio maintenance, building inspections, health administration and the county Department of Social Services. The salaries for the new positions range from $29,949 for a time-limited position in the DSS office, to $59,317 for a Building Inspector III position in the inspections office.
The budget as currently drafted also includes regrades or reclassifications for all Hoke County Sheriff’s Office deputies, representing a 15 percent pay increase with no cost-of-living increase. The county also proposed to regrade eight other positions, most of them in DSS.
The budget additionally includes Christmas bonuses for county employees, at a rate of $500 for full time employees, $300 for part time employees and $100 for new employees. County employees other than sheriff’s deputies would also receive a 2.5 percent cost-of-living pay increase.
The county’s local contribution to Hoke County Schools would, as requested by the school system, keep the funding for current expense based on an allocation of $600 per student. With an estimated 9,500 students expected to attend Hoke County Schools in the 2021-2022 school year, the school system would receive a current expense contribution of $5.7 million.
The draft budget also includes a little over $1 million for capital outlay costs. That amount includes $600,000 to continue funding the one-to-one initiative that allows all students to have their own electronic device – an iPad or Chromebook – for school work. The capital outlay also provides $404,000 for school maintenance costs.
Other expenses in the budget allow for purchasing 11 new county vehicles: five for the sheriff’s office, one for grant management, two for building inspections, two for HATS and one for soil and water conservation.
The recommended budget leaves the county’s water and sewer fees where they are currently, with $8,570,171 set aside for public utilities, plus $245,943 for capital outlay and money for two new vehicles.
The only fee increase in the budget is in the solid waste department. The manager’s proposed budget suggested raising solid waste collection fees from $128 to $130 per household, and raising the solid waste transfer station tipping fee from $50.75 to $52.75 per ton. The budget set out $212,500 in capital outlay money for solid waste.
The public utilities and solid waste are considered enterprise funds, separate from the county’s general fund balance. Enterprise funds are expected to generate enough income to cover the expenses in those departments.
Hoke County Commissioners will review and could potentially vote on the budget ordinance at the board’s next meeting, set for Monday, June 14. All North Carolina counties are required by state law to pass a balanced budget ordinance before the start of the new fiscal year July 1.
The county manager’s proposed budget can be viewed online at http://hokecounty.net/291/Finance.