By Paul T. Choate
This comes after some controversy regarding the budget in regards to tax increases and departmental cuts. Avery County Sheriff Kevin Frye, in particular, spoke out against the proposed budget. Frye noted in a June 6 open letter to citizens that the Sheriff’s Department would be losing a deputy position and that six of their patrol vehicles currently have over 100,000 miles on them with another six reaching that point by next year.
“Study after study has been done and this has been proven to be the point emergency response patrol vehicles become dangerous for both the driver and the public,” said Frye.
Frye also addressed county salaries, which he noted were less than many other counties.
“In 2010, Avery County paid $17,000 to a very reputable firm, The MAPS group, to conduct this study. The study showed many of Avery County’s employees were not being paid comparable pay to other counties,” said Frye. “This included nearly all of the sheriff’s office. The county was so far behind, it was decided to put this into place in phases. Phase one was done last year; this year there is no phase two.”
The Avery County Board of Commissioners held their final budget workshop on May 31. It took seven meetings to work out a compromise for the budget. County Manager Robert Wiseman and Finance Officer Tim Greene discovered the county was facing a $4 million deficit. A goal to reduce this deficit to $1.7 million was put in place. This was accomplished by:
- Tax increase: An additional 2.5-cent ad valorem tax and one-cent fire tax, for a 3.5 cents total increase.
- Departmental cuts: Three-percent budget cuts to every department in the county.
- Fund balance: No funding removed from fund balance; maintaining the emergency fund at 20 percent.
- Insurance: County employee insurance was reduced to an 80/20 plan.
Despite some controversy, the three commissioners present, Scott Heath, Martha Hicks and Kenny Poteat, voted unanimously to approve the budget.
Front page photo courtesy of averycountync.gov/boardOfCommissioners.htm.