Budget Review Begins
In a budget workshop Thursday, the Moore County Board of Commissioners discussed everything from projected school enrollment to fire tax rates.
But the board made only one decision affecting the proposed 2011-2012 budget.
The commissioners did reach consensus on one budget matter by deciding to consider reinstating more than $12,000 to the Department of Aging budget to cover funding cuts imposed on the Retired and Senior Volunteer Pro-gram (RSVP).
As for the public school budget, the commissioners raised questions about projected enrollment and lottery funds but did not hint that they are considering raising the appropriation for the schools. The budget proposed for the new fiscal year funds the public schools at the existing level and does not include the $3.1 million requested to fill part of the gap left by state funding cuts.
“So the North Carolina Education Lottery is not an education lottery,” Board Chairman Nick Picerno said on learning that part of the state lottery money has been diverted to meet other state funding needs.
In response to a question about a projected increases in enrollment figures, Superintendent Susan Purser and Assistant Superintendent Larry Upchurch said the projection is based on kindergarten enrollment numbers. They said the increase is not attributed to growth expected for BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) affecting counties surrounding Fort Bragg.
Picerno had asked why enrollment growth was estimated at 300 in the new school year while growth has averaged no more than 150 a year in recent years.
The commissioners learned that work is under way on consolidating some emergency units to save money and improve efficiency. These changes could later change the budgeting of fire and rescue units.
“Cypress Pointe has initiated those grassroots changes,” said County Manager Cary McSwain.
Cypress Pointe was formed in the current fiscal year as a consolidation of fire and rescue units in Vass and Cameron.
A review of requested fire district budgets revealed that tax rate increases are being recommended for most. The rate increases were recommended by the Emergency Services Advisory Committee. Only the Pinehurst and Southern Pines districts did not ask for increases.
The commissioners also took a hard look at the number of employees and types of compensation provided. Under discussion were such methods as cost of living raises at 1.5 percent, longevity and the step method. Longevity was dropped from the budget last year, but the new budget recommendation re-stores that method.
A review of employee vacancies shows that some positions are not required in the 2011-2012 budget but will be needed in subsequent years. Examples are personnel needed by the elections board in 2012, the year of the presidential and gubernatorial elections, and by the tax office when work begins on the legally required property revaluation.
“I don’t want to micromanage, but I would like to take a look at the vacant positions,” Commissioner Craig Kennedy said. “I’d like to see if some can become permanent.”
The board imposed a hiring freeze at the Tuesday regular meeting, an action taken at the recommendation of Kennedy.
However, McSwain pointed out that some positions must be filled. The position of public works director has been vacant since May 1, when Dennis Brobst retired. McSwain said the position was advertised and interviews are scheduled on Monday.
After discussing budget issues for more than two hours, the board decided to hold another work session at 2 p.m. May 17, prior to the budget public hearing to be held during the 6 p.m. regular meeting.
The general fund budget recommended by McSwain totals $85 million and retains the present property tax rate of 46.5 cents per $100 property valuation.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at email@example.com.
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