By Catharin Shepard • Editor • The largest budget yet in Hoke County’s history is now on the books ahead of the start of the new fiscal year July 1, after commissioners voted unanimously last week to approve a balanced budget ordinance.
The Hoke County Board of Commissioners approved the budget during a resumed meeting Thursday, June 22. The board members approved a total $70,179,865 county budget for 2023-2024. The final amount was about $360,000 more than the county manager’s first proposed $69.8 million budget.
“The county manager presented us with a budget, we made some small tweaks to it,” Commission Chairman Allen Thomas said during the meeting.
Commission Vice Chairman James Leach reaffirmed that the budget was the “largest we’ve ever done.”
The budget kept the same current ad valorem tax rate of 73 cents per $100 valuation. The total budget was up about $5.8 million total from the proposed $64.3 million budget in 2022-2023. The balanced budget took into account an anticipated $36,113,169 in ad valorem taxes and $15,789,000 in sales tax revenue for the county, along with smaller amounts expected from fees paid to various county departments.
Some of the largest amounts approved for department budgets were as follows:
•Public schools: $11,306,747 in current expense and capital outlay – up from $9.8 million in the 2022 budget. The district received funding at a rate of $675 per student, with an estimated 9,500 students anticipated to enroll in fall 2023.
•Sheriff: $9,342,240 – up from $8.1 million in 2022
•Jail: $5,412,428 – up from $4.9 million in 2022
•Social Services administration: $8,946,650 – up from $6.7 million in 2022
•Non-departmental: $5,840,655 – up from $2.5 million in 2022
•Health administration: $4,111,722 – up from $3.9 million in 2022
•Public buildings: $2,743,843 – up from $1.5 million in 2022
•Recreation: $2,137,141 – up from $960,892 in 2022
•Senior Services: $1,355,151 – up from $1.2 million in 2022
•Governing body: $874,213 – up from $818,547 in 2022
•Administration: $776,338 – up from $648,795 in 2022
Many of the departments also receive funds from state and federal sources. These amounts reflect only local taxpayers’ contributions through the local county government.
The budget included a five percent cost of living increase for county employees; a Christmas bonus for full-time and part-time employees; new staff positions for the Hoke County Health Department, Department of Social Services, Parks and Recreation, Sheriff’s Office and Detention Center, Internet Technology, Emergency Management, Hoke Area Transit Service, and Senior Services; and employee regrades in the DMV, Register of Deeds, Emergency Management, Animal Control, Detention Center, Department of Social Services, Senior Services and Planning.
Commissioners approved the budget on the condition that a few contracts were still pending final review by the county attorney.
“This has been a long process. I want to thank county staff,” Thomas said.
Before the board voted last Thursday, Commissioner Harry Southerland asked for clarification on the capital outlay budget of $860,000 for public utilities, and about $700,000 in capital outlay for the solid waste department. County Manager Letitia Edens explained that the funds are going toward adding a third basin at the wastewater treatment plant, and for new equipment including a backhoe, five compactors and a new pad at the solid waste facility.
“We have to keep doing some repairs,” she said.
The county’s water department will also receive a new electric generator for a well site.
In addition to closing out the last days of the fiscal year and preparing for the new one to start in July, the county’s finance staff are also working with auditors who are in Hoke to conduct the yearly audit.