By Catharin Shepard •
Staff writer •
The Hoke County Board of Commissioners is expected to vote this week on a proposed 2020-2021 county budget ordinance.
The board members plan to meet again Wednesday to take a vote on the proposed budget, County Manager Letitia Edens said in an email Monday. The board met in workshops last Tuesday and Wednesday to further refine plans for county departments’ funding needs for the upcoming fiscal year, due to start July 1.
The proposed county budget for the upcoming fiscal year came out to $53.7 million in total. The current property tax rate is unchanged at 75 cents per $100 valuation.
The initial proposed budget did not include a cost of living pay raise for county employees. It does include a $500 Christmas bonus for full-time employees, and $300 and $100 Christmas bonuses for part-time and new employees.
However, Commission Chairman James Leach asked his fellow board members last week to consider a plan to raise all county employees’ salaries to at least $15 an hour.
“We’re asking single mothers, single fathers, parents to work for $8 an hour and they’re not able to raise their family with a decent salary,” the chairman said last Monday night. Leach suggested possibly raising the salaries in two steps if necessary, over a period of time.
Leach asked Edens to gather numbers that would show how much such a raise would cost the county, and how many employees it would affect. Edens said Monday county staff members are still working on putting that information together.
In other budget matters, the county proposed to fund Hoke County Schools current expense budget at a rate of $600 per student. With an estimated 9,500 students set to enroll in fall of this year, the county would fund the school system with $5.7 million in local tax dollars.
The proposed county school funding also included $1.3 million in capital outlay. That amount includes $600,000 to pay for new Chromebooks for the schools’ ongoing “one-to-one” initiative of providing a computer device for every student in Hoke County Schools.
School Superintendent Dr. Freddie Williamson previously pointed out the schools have relied on the devices as a means of continuing education this spring, with school buildings shut and children learning at home.
The capital outlay also included $703,550 for other school projects. Capital outlay funding is typically used to make physical improvements to buildings or conduct necessary maintenance.
The county’s proposed budget also included funding for 14 new vehicles, including eight cars for the Hoke County Sheriff’s Office, and vehicles for the Health Department, Emergency Management, Inspections, Public buildings and the governing body.
The manager’s proposal also included funding for several newly created county departments. The new departments included grant manager, to be paid $55,280, and audio and security manager, to be paid $50,082.
The proposal additionally contains funding for several new hires, including a fire safety inspector, two maintenance assistants, a housekeeper, in-home care coordinator, a clerk and a child support agent. Several other positions included reclassifications for a few Department of Social Services, Senior Services and Health Department employees.
The proposed budget for the county’s enterprise funds was set at $9.4 million for public utilities, with no fee increase for county sewer or water service; and $2.8 million for solid waste, with no fee increase for that service. Enterprise funds are generally meant to be self-sustaining funds.
By state statute, North Carolina county governments must pass a balanced budget before the start of the new fiscal year July 1.