Ashe County Manager Dr. Pat Mitchell presented her proposed $33 million budget for 2013-14 to the Ashe County Board of Commissioners on Monday.
The board will kick off a set of meetings beginning on June 3 to evaluate the 2013-14 budget, ending on June 18 with a public hearing to adopt the budget.
“This year’s budget process has been time consuming, as it is every year, but I believe I’m presenting to you a solid spending plan for the county,” said Mitchell to the board.
“The budget proposal FY 2013-2014 general fund proposed budget is $33,288,426. This amount is $493,804 more than FY 2013 general fund budget,” said Mitchell to the board.
Mitchell said this budget would maintain Ashe County’s tradition of providing “high quality services while working within a constrained revenue environment.”
“This proposed budget reflects priority areas important to our citizens and our commissioners with an emphasis on education, public safety and emergency services, parks and recreations, health and social services, and economic development,” said Mitchell.
According to Mitchell, the primary source of revenue for Ashe County is the ad valorem tax. The proposed budget will not increase the current tax of $.40 per $100 evaluation.
However, the proposed budget does include a fee increase of enterprise funds for the second year in a row. This increase was fueled by the expenses and capital costs of removal for solid waste and inert debris due to the damaging weather events from earlier this year.
Also,for the first time since 2007, there is a proposed moderate increase for some of the county’s building inspection fees,” said Mitchell.
The Creston Volunteer Fire Department has also proposed an increase to their fire tax, and held the necessary public meeting for the increase.
One of the county’s continued needs, according to Mitchell, is the need to update several pieces of county infrastructure, which she presented to the board in October 2012.
“Last October, I presented to you information concerning the county’s long-term capital needs,” said Mitchell. “These included public infrastructure maintenance on our buildings as they age, the need for a new middle school, expanded courtroom and social service base, as well as relocation of a convenience center and/or the development of an additional center due to the widening highway 221.”
Mitchell warned the board about delaying the county’s capital needs projects.
“The county’s capital infrastructure needs cannot be put off until the need is eminent. With this in mind, recommendations will be forth coming in regards to budgeting for capital facilities planning,” said Mitchell.
“Education including the K-12 and the community college system is recommended to receive funds for operating capital and debt service expenditures totaling $6.6 million,” said Mitchell
The K-12 appropriation reflects and 11.2 percent increase for recurring capital expense (the middle school pool) while the community college appropriation reflects an 8.6 percent increase for current operating expense, which includes the replacement of a van.
Operating and capital expenditures were also mentioned during the budget presentation.
“The recommended expenditures both for operating and capital for law enforcement and corrections totals $5.1 million,” said Mitchell.
However, this $5.1 million in expenditures is offset by funds gained for housing neighboring county’s inmates. Still, housing the additional inmates will lead to a $50,000 increase for additional part-time staffing.
The social service department has a recommended county share expenditure of $4.2 million. Using these funds, the social services department will continue their investment in software and services to transition into a paperless system, which will save money used for paper in the future.
Also, the parks and recreation’s department is recommended to have a total expenditure of $667,147. Mitchell said the board of commissioners deserve considerable credit for improving the parks and recreations department over the past few years.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Mitchell warned the board about their increasing rate of using the county’s fund balance.
“There was a necessity of appropriating significant fund balance. We have used fund balance at an increasing rate for the past five years, and this is a practice that Ashe County should not, and can not continue year after year.”
The proposed budget appropriates $2.95 million in fund balance, and $463,000 in carry-over funds to balance the budget for a total of $3.4 million.
“This is an increase of appropriated fund balance and carry-over funds of last year of $465,982,” said Mitchell.
Along with presenting information about the budget, Mitchell also presented information about Ashe County in general.
“We are a recognized area for cultural and recreational activities, we have an excellent K-12 and community college system in addition to and outstanding regional university. We have a strong industrial economy, a workforce with and exemplary work ethic, and we are recognized as an area for tourism,” said Mitchell.
During the budget presentation, Mitchell said she remains optimistic about Ashe County’s future.
According to Mitchell, a slight increase in sales tax revenue and revenue from fees of the planning and inspections department are signs of a steadily improving economy.
“While Ashe County and our citizens have certainly felt the effects of the recession these past few years, I believe Ashe County will continue to grow and prosper,” said Mitchell.
Ashe County BOC Chair Larry Rhodes thanked Mitchell and Finance Officer Sandra Long for their effort to compile the 2013-14 budget, and said the board has a duty to evaluate the budget before their next meeting.
“We will take these home now and do our homework as far as looking at the budget and looking at what Dr. Mitchell has presented to us,” said Larry Rhodes, the chair of the board of commissioners. “It’s our responsibility to look at that, make notes and ask questions before we actually start meeting. We’ll reconvene on Monday June 3.”
• In a 5-0 vote, the board approved Priscilla Norris’ audit contract request for year ending June 30, 2013.
• In a 5-0 vote, the board approved the 2013-14 budget for Juvenile Crime Prevention Council submitted by Grier Hurley.
• The BOC approved the 2013 Home and Community Care Block Grant (HCCBG) Advisory Committee nominations in a 5-0 vote. The nominations were presented by Ashe Services for Aging Executive Director Patricia Calloway, and they include herself, Ashe County Manager Dr. Pat Mitchell, Anita Davie, Carolyn Shepherd Louise Ham, Dana Tugman, Clara Miller, Jeanette Paisley, Charles Caudill, Sue Thompson, Jennifer Richardson, Mary Fran Knight, and Terry Kimmer.
• Elaine Hanks and Linda Marsh were reappointment to three more years of service in the Ashe County Advisory Committee in a 5-0 vote.
• Candy Gambill was reappointment to the Local Emergency Planning Committee in a 5-0 vote.
• In a 5-0 vote, the BOC adopted the Ashe County records retention and disposition schedule.