Board Considers Tax Cut
A proposal to cut the tax rate and use part of the fund balance to pay for county building needs emerged during the Monday meeting of the Moore County Board of Commissioners.
Commissioner Tim Lea advanced a fiscal recovery package of his own near the end of the board's regular meeting. His presentation was not on the agenda.
"This board has the opportunity to be proactive now," Lea said.
Lea proposed that the property tax rate be reduced by a minimum of 3 cents in the new fiscal year and that the Advanced Life Support tax be reduced to 2 cents. He called for the 2008 budget to be applied to the 2009 budget with a 5 percent reduction.
However, his proposal calls for the county to use excess funds in its fund balance to meet one-time capital expenditures, which would include the jail enlargement project along with a county government office complex and a public safety building.
Lea pointed out that this period of economic downturn is a good time to take advantage of lower construction costs and put people back to work.
"We're at the magic window," he said.
Board Chairman Nick Picerno recommended that rather than acting on a motion, the board should reach consensus on the issue and ask the manager and the finance director to "run the numbers" and determine the prudent thing to do.
Commissioner Larry Caddell agreed that Moore County is in better financial condition than many local governments and credited that to good planning by the staff. He also agreed that it is a good idea to use some of the fund balance to cover capital improvements.
"From day one, I've never wanted to hoard tax money," Caddell said. "We're in a golden opportunity now."
Commissioner Jimmy Melton added his agreement that the county should move ahead on the building projects. He too had looked at budget numbers and said he had found places to cut 2 cents from the tax rate, but not 3 cents. However, Melton added that he would like to find cuts amounting to 4 cents.
The fifth commissioner, Cindy Morgan, was absent because of the serious illness of her father.
The Local Government Commission has established 8 percent as the minimum unappropriated fund balance which counties and municipalities must maintain. This is a cushion to ensure that local governments have sufficient funds to meet monthly obligations. In recent years, Moore County has managed to do better than that and at one time the balance was almost 24 percent.
Lea proposed that the fund balance should be at least 15 percent of the total annual operating budget at the close of the fiscal year. He recommended that monies in excess of 15 percent be available for appropriation as needed, the funds to be applied to one-time capital expenditures, economic development-related expenditures or set aside in a capital reserve fund.
In other business, during the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting, speaker Elton Turner reported that he received a telephone threat by an unidentified male on Jan. 10. He did not describe the nature of the threat but said his caller identification feature reported that the number from which the call was made was that of a Jennifer Picerno.
The call was received after Turner made remarks critical of some commissioners during the board's regular meeting on Jan. 5.
After the meeting, Nick Picerno, the board chairman, said he knew nothing about the call and had no comment. The telephone number is that of his sister-in-law.
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