By Tim Gardner
The Avery Board of Commissioners have approved the county’s budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023.
The new budget is $32.4-plus million with an exact amount of $32,431,887.00.
Taxes for Avery County residents will not increase for the upcoming fiscal year. In fact, in a milestone happening, there is a .15 cents tax decrease from the last fiscal year of 2021-2022.
The county’s general fund tax rate is .40 cents per $100 valuation. That valuation comes from the county’s tax rate of 34.5 cents and 5.5 percent fire tax rate to comprise the .40 cents per $100 valuation.
The fire tax rate also dropped from seven cents to 5.5 cents per $100 valuation this coming fiscal year.
This marks the fifth consecutive fiscal year that there is no tax increase for Avery County taxpayers and the first in seven years in which there is a decrease. Additionally, the new budget was compiled with no county services cut.
The new budget is a $967,888.00 increase (3.08 percent) from the 2021-2022 fiscal budget.
Commissioners (Chairperson) Martha Hicks, Vice-Chairman Tim Phillips, Dennis Aldridge, Blake Vance and Wood Hall (Woodie) Young, Jr. each voted to approve the 2021-22 budget (unanimously) as presented by County Manager Phillip Barrier, Jr. and County Finance Officer Caleb Hogan.
The budget for general government decreased, while the budgets for public safety, transportation, environmental protection, economic and physical development, human services, cultural and recreation and education increased.
Property tax revenue is projected to decrease 0.25 percent from last year, which is due to the commitment to taxpayers to keep the tax rate below revenue-neutral, according to an Avery County budget message from Avery County Manager Phillip Barrier, Jr. and County Finance Officer Caleb Hogan.
During various meetings and workshops the past few months, the commissioners, county manager and finance officer considered budget requests from county department directors and representatives from all other entities the county funds in compiling the upcoming fiscal year’s budget. And following a state mandated public hearing for comments about the proposed budget, Barrier, Jr. and Hogan 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 put much thought, time and hard work into compiling the upcoming fiscal year’s budget,” Barrier, Jr. stated. “This upcoming budget is well thought out and balances the county’s governmental services with responsibility to the taxpayers. We’re proud that this will be the fifth straight year with no tax increase, while also not having to cut any county services. That is a positive outcome for our citizens and taxpayers, and to have a tax decrease–especially in this economy– is a tremendous accomplishment. All county officials are thankful to our great taxpayers and for their service to our county.”
Hogan commended those responsible for compiling such a financially solvent budget with the following statement: “I cannot speak highly enough of our county commissioners, department heads and county manager. They work hard to provide the best services for our county while being frugal with taxpayer money and I think this budget represents that commitment.”
Barrier, Jr. gave the commissioners an overview of the 2022-2023 budget for Avery County before they voted to approve the proposed budget. He described various aspects of economic growth through the increased revenue the county earned in the 2021-2022 fiscal year and further projected revenue growth during the upcoming 2022-2023 fiscal year. Barrier, Jr. said county property values increased $1-plus billion ($1,645,931,810.00) or 38.85 percent, from $4.237 billion ($4,237,125,784.00) to $5.883 billion ($5,883,057,594.00) from the 2021-2022 fiscal year to the 2022-2023 fiscal year.
Property values, accordingto Hogan, are increasing steadily heading into the 2022-2023 fiscal year. He noted that 61.49 percent of revenue for the general fund will be derived from property taxes, while 19.37 percent will originate from sales taxes. Hogan added that intergovernmental transfers represent 8.54 percent of revenue, with sales and services representing 6.58 percent. The remaining 4 percent was attributed to a miscellaneous “Other” category.
The fire tax revenues will be distributed to all fire departments in the county as well as the Fire Association, the Fire Commission, the Avery County Ladder Company and Linville Central Rescue.
The largest expenditure in the 2022-2023 fiscal year budget is public safety, which comprises 30.97 percent of planned expenditures. Education is the second largest expenditure, budgeted at 18.44 percent, followed by 18.01 percent of the general fund designated for human services, 13.21 percent to general government, 7.81 percent to environmental protection, 7 percent to miscellaneous “Other” and 4.14 percent to debt services.
Hogan has announced that Avery County has received $65,815 as the first allotment of the North Carolina Opioid Settlement. During a time span of 18 years, the settlement will provide $1,713,063 to Avery County and $750 million in total funds throughout North Carolina, according to a press release from the state’s Attorney General Josh Stein.
A complete line-item breakdown with related details of the new Avery County 2022-23 budget may be accessed by clicking on the following link: