By Jesse Wood
May 7, 2013. Watauga County Manager Deron Geouque submitted the recommended $55.86-million budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year to the Watauga County Board of Commissioners today. Still a work in progress, the commissioners will review the proposed budget in two upcoming work sessions.
The $55,857,586 budget is an increase of $1,243,596, which is 2.28 percent, compared to the current budget. It includes no recommended change to the current tax rate of 31.3 cents per $100 of valuation.
Property taxes revenue represents 65 percent of the general fund revenue that will generate $26.9 million based on the 97-percent collection rate. Sales tax revenue is 22.44 percent of the general fund budget. Since the county recently changed the sales tax distribution method to ad valorem, the county is projecting a reduction in revenues of approximately $1.1 million with $900,000 to be distributed to fire districts and the other $200,000 shortfall associated with the distribution change.
However with the 60-40 split that the Towns of Beech Mountain, Blowing Rock and Seven Devils agreed to, those municipalities will “assist Watauga County in providing services” to the tune of $1,300,000, which is listed under the Miscellaneous Revenues category.
“The proposed budget makes every effort to implement all appropriate measures that will maximize the productivity of our organization and deliver the highest quality of services within available resources,” Geouque said in a memo to commissioners. “Our entire management team has worked collectively to implement creative ways of doing more with less. Staff is committed to maintaining the high quality of life our residents expect and deserve.
After Geouque read to the commissioners a brief summary of highlights at its Tuesday morning meeting, Chair Nathan Miller said, “Thank you for your hard work, but it ain’t over.”
The commissioners and staff will meet in two work sessions to review the budget. Those take place on Thursday, May 9, and Monday, May 13, starting both days at 4 p.m. in the commissioners conference room in the Watauga County Administrative Building, located at 814 West King Street.
A public hearing regarding the budget is scheduled for Tuesday, May 21, at 6 p.m. to allow for citizen comment on the proposed budget.
To view the proposed budget, click here; http://www.wataugacounty.org/main/App_pages/Dept/BOC/Forms/PropBud2014.pdf
Highlights of Proposed General Fund Expenditures
Education: Public Schools
- Proposed $223,189 increase for current operating costs for total of $12,062,834
- 1.6 percent cost-of-living raise for school employees while Governor’s budget calls for 1 percent increase
- Watauga County Schools Capital Improvement Plan scheduled to receive $340,400
Education: CCC&TI Community College
- $100,000 budget amendment for Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute to build new classrooms at the Watauga Campus. Funding is contingent upon new classroom construction, yet if funds are not required, the funding would remain for future CCC&TI capital needs
- Watauga County Department of Social Services to receive appropriation of $1,812,641, which is a 22 percent increase over previous year. Increase is due to state and federal funding changes in mandated programs
- Appalachian District Health Department proposed to receive level funding at $568,183
- Smoky Mountain Center proposed to receive $221,194
Maintenance of Facilities
- As county rebuilds funds to address overall maintenance and repairs to county facilities, no funds allocated from Capital Projects Fund
- $97,319 proposed for paving, sealing and coating; $75,000 for general maintenance and repairs; and $45,000 for replacement of 1985 dump truck
- Watauga County Sheriff’s Office to receive $3,317,793, which is increase of $86,025. It includes five new sheriff’s vehicles. Detention center budget is estimated at $2,013,415 with bulk of increases due to catastrophic insurance and food and provisions.
- Half of a year for an additional 24-hour ambulance crew has been budgeted at $178,645. If the board elects to fund a 24-hour crew, funds for ambulance base must be identified.
Cultural and Recreation
- Watauga County Public Library is proposed to have 3 percent increase for a total of $509,850 allocated. Library funding has been stagnant for four years.
- Continuation of $75,000 for needed repairs to the aquatic center’s building budget
- Debt service expenditures reflect the funding of existing financing. Due to Federal Sequestration the Federal interest rebate for Qualified School Construction Bonds may not be fully funded resulting in additional expenses to the County. The $1.5 million will be drawn down from the Capital Projects Fund per the plan enacted two years ago.
- Two-percent cost of living raise for all county employees
- Funding is recommended at $4,293,729, a 4.96 percent increase