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County Commissioners Approve Modified Budget for 2023-24 Fiscal Year

By Zach Hill

The Watauga County Commissioners prepare to approve the 2023-2024 budget.

The Watauga County Commissioners approved a revised budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year at a special meeting Thursday night. A previous iteration of the budget had been rejected in a 3-2 vote earlier this month.

The 3.18 cent property tax and overall $94 million dollar budget remain the same as initially proposed but changes were made elsewhere to bring the commissioners’ differing priorities into agreement.

Points of contention had included landfill hours and regulations, law enforcement funding and money for social services.

County manager Deron Geoque provided a double-sided page that noted all of the adjustments to the budget, most of them minor. 

After brief discussion of the changes chair Larry Turnbow called for a vote and the new budget was passed unanimously.

Commissioner Charlie Wallin praised the commissioners for their willingness to compromise during the previous day’s meeting where the changes were made. The night’s camaraderie was a sharp change from the previous meeting when the budget was rejected in a tense meeting.

“Our country was founded on compromise,” Wallin said. “I think several of us wished we could have filmed it because a lot of people could take lessons from our bipartisan work.”

Commissioner Ray Russell agreed with Wallin.

“I think anyone who was here last night had to be impressed by the give-and-take and breaking thorough barriers,” Russell said. “For us to put the finishing touches on like we did in a collaborate manner—I’m proud of that.”

Turnbow said he was proud of the compromises and budget itself. 

“This budget is very good for our employees with a good cost of living increase,” Turnbow said. “And this is the seventh budget I have voted on that includes increases to education. It’s a pride of our community and will remain so.”

“Same thing with the sheriff’s and safety department—they work hard for this community. We have a lot of pride and care for those individuals. All of our employees work very hard for this community.”