By Tim Gardner
The County of Avery will have a $30-plus million budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
During their regular monthly June 3rd, the Avery Commissioners approved a new 2019-2020 fiscal year county budget of $30,237,871.00. It includes no tax increase, marking the third consecutive fiscal year Avery County has avoided one.
The new budget is a 2 percent increase –$599,560.00–from the 2018-19 fiscal budget of $29,638,311.00.
Commissioners Martha Hicks (Chairperson); Wood Hall (Woodie) Young, Jr.; Tim Phillips; and Dennis Aldridge were present at the meeting. Other top county officials attending included: County Manager Phillip Barrier, Jr.; Finance Officer Tim Greene; Assistant County Manager and Clerk to the Board Cindy Turbyfill; and County Attorney Michaelle Poore. Commission Vice-Chairman Blake Vance was absent.
During various meetings and workshops the past few months, the Commissioners and County Manager considered budget requests from county department directors and representatives from all other entities the county funds in compiling the upcoming year’s budget. And following a state mandated public hearing for comments about the proposed budget at Monday’s meeting, Barrier, Jr. presented the Board of Commissioners with the final budget draft , which is for all county operations, capital improvements and debt service requirements.
“The commissioners and other county officials have put a lot of thought, time and work into compiling the upcoming fiscal year’s budget,” Commissioner Hicks stated. “While I’ve never seen a perfect budget, the next fiscal year’s is a good and fair one. It will well serve our citizens with the services they get from the county’s government.”
According to Barrier, Jr., Commissioner Vance said he also would have voted to adopt the budget.
By virtue of the Commissioners adopting the new budget, the following amounts are hereby appropriated in the General Fund for the operation of Avery County Government and its activities for the fiscal year beginning July 1st, 2019 and ending June 30th, 2020-
General Government $4,082,206.00
Public Safety $9,166,347.00
Environmental Protection $2,308,650.00
Economic & Physical Development $389,102.00
Human Services $5,040,640.00
Cultural & Recreational $541,186.00
General Fund Debt Service $1,498,633.00
Transfer to Revaluation Fund $115,000.00
Transfer to High School Renovation Project Fund $346,361.00
Transfer to Capital Reserve/Project Fund $1,926,900.00
Transfer to Component Unit (Airport) $78,334.00
Total Appropriations $30,237,871.00
*It is estimated that the following revenues will be available in the General Fund-
Ad Valorem Taxes $19,012,000.00
Local Option Sales Tax $5,700,000.00
Other Taxes & Licenses $480,000.00
Unrestricted Intergovernmental $275,500.00
Restricted Intergovernmental $2,204,071.00
Licenses & Permits $330,500.00
Sales & Services $1,968,800.00
Investment Earnings $225,000.00
Other Income $42,000.00
Fund Balance Appropriation —————-
Total Estimated Revenues $30,237,871.00
*The following amounts are hereby appropriated in the 911 Emergency Telephone System Fund for the operation of the system-Addressing & Data Provisioning $47,562.00
Operating Expenses $148,739.00
Total Appropriations $370,719.00
*It is estimated that the following revenues will be available in the 911 Emergency Telephone System Fund –
911 Charges $203,511.00
Interest on Investments $375.00
Fund Balance Appropriation $166,833.00
Total Estimated Revenues $370,719.00
*The following amounts are hereby appropriated in the Fire Districts Fund for the operation of fire protection services-
Fire Association —————
Elk Park Fire Department $62,046.00
Crossnore Fire Department $66,736.00
Linville Fire Department $74,960.00
Frank Fire Department $62,620.00
Green Valley Fire Department $48,194.00
Banner Elk Fire Department $72,050.00
Newland Fire Department $66,050.00
Fall Creek Fire Department $61,188.00
Seven Devils Fire Department $11,858.00
Beech Mountain Fire Department $42,641.00
Fire Commission $2,069,628.00
Avery County Ladder Truck Co. $28,810.00
Linville Central Rescue Squad $64,719.00
Total Appropriations $2,731,500.00
*It is estimated that the following revenues will be available in the Fire Districts Fund-
Fire Tax Levy Revenue $2,731,500.00
Transfer From General Fund ———————–
Total Estimated Revenues $2,731,500.00
*The following amounts are hereby appropriated in the Revaluation Fund for revaluation of property in Avery County-
Personnel Expenses $115,645.00
Operating Expenses $15,697.00
Total Appropriations $131,342.00
*It is estimated that the following revenues will be available in the Revaluation Fund-
Transfer From General Fund $115,000.00
Fund Balance Appropriation $16,342.00
Total Estimated Revenues $131,342.00
*The following amounts are appropriated in the High School Renovation Project Fund for the construction of a new Agricultural Building-
General Construction $1,950,626.00
Permits, Insurance, Surveys, Other ————————
Total Appropriations $1,950,626.00
*It is estimated that the following revenues will be available in the High School Renovation Project Fund –
Transfer from General Fund $3,600.00
Proceeds from Lottery Fund $1,947,026.00
Total Estimated Revenues $1,950,626.00
*The following amounts are in the Pool Project Fund for the construction of a new Swimming Pool-
General Construction $2,564,029.00
Architect/Engineering/Consulting Fees $200,113.00
Permits, Insurance, Surveys, Other $36,093.00
Site Prep $524,765 .00
Total Appropriations $3,338,000.00
*It is estimated that the following revenues will be available in the Pool Project Fund-
Grant Proceeds $187,000.00
Fund Balance Appropriation $3,151,000.00
Total Estimated Revenues-$3,338,000.00
The 2019-2020 budget includes taxes (both of valuation of property listed as of January 1, 2019) at the rate of forty-eight hundreds cents ($0.48) per hundred dollars ($100.00) for the purpose of raising revenue included in “Ad Valorem Taxes” in the General Fund and seven hundredths cents ($0.07) per one hundred dollars ($100.00) for the purpose of raising revenue included in “Fire Tax Levy Revenue” in the Fire Districts Fund.
These tax rates are both based on estimated total valuations of property for the purpose of taxation of $4,036,156,856.00 and an estimated collection rate of 96 percent.
Combining the .48 cents (General Fund) and .07 cents (Fire Tax) provides the county’s 2019-2020 over-all tax rate of .55 cents ($0.55) per hundred dollars ($100.00), which was the same for both the 2018-19 and 2017-18 fiscal years.
The total valuations of property increased ($92,915,516.00 (92.9 million) comparing the 2019-2020 fiscal year’s total of $4,036,156,856.00 to the current fiscal year’s (2018-2019) total of $3,943,241,340.00.
Commissioner Phillips made a motion to grant WAMY’s request for $5,000.00 in funding to be added in the 2019-2020 budget, which carried 4-0. According to the Finance Officer, the funds for WAMY will be paid from the Cultural & Recreational Fund.
Following another Public Hearing and lengthy discussion among themselves about obtaining an $11,000,000.00 Installment Contract for construction additions and renovations to Avery County High School, the Commissioners choose Sterling National Bank over United Community Bank, Inc. to borrow those funds for the project’s initial work to begin by a 4-0 vote.
The Commissioners present all voiced their desire for the county to borrow the funds from United Community Bank, Inc., headquartered in Georgia, because it has many area branches, including one in Newland. Sterling National Bank is based in New York, with a Charlotte, NC contact branch for the county to use. However, the Commissioners said they voted for Sterling National Bank because it has a lower interest rate (3.05) than United Community (3.19) and that it does not require to be the first lien holder and have an appraisal conducted—both stipulations that United Community Bank, Inc. mandated. The commissioners said the required appraisal would cost the county additional money and not allow starting timelines for the construction additions and renovations to be met.
Sterling National Bank also offered the county a 15-year fixed rate and a pre-payment option.
During the public comment segment, Nikki Lamont addressed the Board of Commissioners about water runoff from the Elk River and Eagles Nest Resorts in Banner Elk. Runoff is the movement of water and any contaminants across the soil surface. It occurs when irrigation, rain or snow melt adds water to a surface faster than it can enter the soil. Lamont said the runoffs are causing mud and pollution– especially after heavy rains– that is possibly hurting wildlife and plant life in adjacent areas to Elk River and Eagles Nest. She urged the commissioners to seek mediation with Eagles Nest and Elk River officials to help find a solution to stop the water runoffs.
Commissioner Hicks, a Heaton resident, said the runoffs from Eagles Nest and Elk River has also caused flooding and large amounts of mud near her home and elsewhere in that community. Avery County Inspections and Planning Director Tommy Burleson said he will meet with Department of Transportation representatives about the matter and Commissioner Hicks added that county officials will also talk with Eagles Nest and Elk River officials to help resolve the water runoff problems.
In other business, the commissioners also approved (all by 4-0 votes)-
*Budget amendments recommended by the Finance Officer, which included accepting a $1,800.00 donation from the Banner Elk Kiwanis Club for the Sheriff’s Department to use to fight Opioid Abuse and a $49.00 check from the Avery Motor Club to use to benefit military veterans services.
*Appointments of Daryl Smith to the County’s Planning Board and Dave Smith to its Economic Development Advisory Committee.
Additionally, Greene said the estimated cost of the new Agricultural Extension Service Community Center has increased from $1,000,000.00 to $1,200,000.00, according to the project’s architect, Boomerang Design of Charlotte.
And in another financial item, Commissioner Young, Jr. made a motion to fund Avery County Little League Baseball $5,000.00 from the current year’s budget (2018-2019) to pay off a bank loan it has and to use for its other needs. That motion also carried 4-0.
The commissioners will have a bi-monthly meeting on Monday, June 17, at 3:30 p.m. in the County Administration Building, located at 175 Linville Street in Newland.