Commissioners pass $53 million budget on 4-1 vote
On a 4-1 vote Thursday afternoon with Commissioner Bo Richard casting the lone dissenting vote, the 2013-14 fiscal year budget for Rutherford County was passed by County Commissioners. The $53,183,528 general fund budget was passed at 4:05 p.m. just one hour after the special meeting was called to order.
The budget reflects the same tax rate — 60.7 cents per $100 property valuation — as the current budget.
There is also a 2.5 percent salary increase for county employees beginning in January 2014.
The overall general fund budget is close to last year’s budget with the exception of a $3 million increase in expenditures. Two-thirds of the increases are for economic incentive grants to be paid to Valley Fine Foods, Facebook and Horsehead, Inc.
“Basically it’s flat,” County Manager Carl Classen said.
The county’s fund balance is about $14 million, which is about 27 percent of the county’s operating budget.
Prior to the adoption of the budget resolution, commissioners talked about several technical budget amendments and straw votes that had been discussed at previous meetings.
Among those that were discussed and approved by the board included increases in health insurance for premium changes to be effective Jan. 2014 by 4.7 percent; hiring a new sheriff’s deputy to be placed at the Department of Social Service to assist with filing civil papers. The position is expected to increase child support payments and could eventually pay for itself.
Another amendment was to fund the Rutherford County Schools and Isothermal Community College at one-third of their respective budget requests.
However, in an amendment to the motion, Commissioner Eddie Holland recommended if the sales taxes increase in the county funding is available, he made a motion that the schools and college be funded at 50 percent of their request.
“Our schools are so important and they help bring in jobs, that’s our top priority,”Holland said. His amendment also passed, pending the increase of sales taxes.
“We are gracious for any increase,” said Heidi Kerns, finance officer for the Rutherford County Schools. “We are glad for anything we can get.” Kerns said with the 5 to 11 percent expected cuts from the federal government and the expected cuts in the state budget, she was pleased with any increase of funding for the schools.
County Commissioner Chair Julius Owens thanked the county’s administrative staff and department heads for a job well done.
“A lot of time and effort has gone into the budget. . . and thanks to the fire departments. I can’t say enough for what you do.”
Holland, Commissioners Bill Eckler and Greg Lovelace, also thanked the staff for its work in presenting the budget.
“This is a good budget under the circumstances,” Holland said.
After the budget was passed, Classen told commissioners, “this is the set-up year for the tough year next year.”
He said the incentive payments for the new industries will double next year. “But there will be more jobs at Horsehead and Valley Fine Foods and hopefully people will spend money and sales taxes will increase. We’ve got to make those incentive payments,” he said.
Richard made a public apology to Classen saying he received “no support” from the other commissioners on his recommended budget reduction in the amendments he proposed.
He said “this was a golden opportunity” to save the taxpayers money.
In his own suggested amendments, Richard wanted to reduce the Solid Waste Convience fee by $10; asked to delay the implementation of additional school capital request until further review; asked that each department undergo a thorough review; asked that the solid waste convenience sites be reviewed for possible consolidate and asked that the salary increase for employees be eliminated.
None of his suggestions received a second to his motion by the other commissioners and they all died on the table for lack of support.