Board Cuts EMS Tax by Half-Cent
With the economy in a nosedive, the Moore County Board of Commissioners took a long hard look at possible tax and budget cuts at a Monday night meeting.
The commissioners voted unanimously to lop a half-cent from the advanced life support tax, knocking it down to two cents in 2009-2010. The tax funds a countywide Emergency Medical Services system.
However, they split on the issue of cutting the property tax rate by three cents and cutting the new budget by 5 percent as well as on the size of a cap on the fund balance. They voted instead to defer action on the budget and tax cuts until a March meeting, when a detailed report is expected from a financial consulting firm.
"These are not easy decisions," said Commissioner Tim Lea, who supported the 5 percent budget cut and a three-cent cut in the property tax, along with a 15 percent cap on the fund balance. "We can be proactive now."
Lea made the budget and tax proposals at the Feb. 2 meeting, when the board delayed a vote to give the staff time to collect additional financial statistics.
Lea suggested that, in light of the slumping economy, the board would be wise to move ahead on strategic cuts and to trim the fund balance, directing excess funds toward payment of major capital improvements.
The last audit shows a fund balance of about 24 percent of the county's total operating budget. This is almost three times larger than the minimum recommended by the Local Government Commission, which would actually prefer that local governments maintain a 15 percent balance as protection against unexpected revenue shortfalls and other crises.
Commissioner Larry Caddell, a former mayor of Carthage, admitted that his years of experience with budgets and fund balances made him feel uncomfortable with a fund balance of less than 20 percent.
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