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$95M Nash budget to keep tax rate flat

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Nash County Manager Zee Lamb last week submitted the proposed county budget for fiscal year 2019-20 that sharply limits spending and maintains the same property tax rate for the 10th consecutive year.

He submitted the formal budget requests within a 156-page document that also includes detailed explanation and analysis during the Board of Commissioners’ routine afternoon monthly meeting.

Lamb is recommending a general fund budget of $95,078,479, which is only 1.22% higher than last year’s original budget of $93.9 million and fully covers all county operations while maintaining the current unassigned fund balance at a healthy 31.37%.

The proposed ad valorem property tax rate will remain at 67 cents per $100 valuation for the 10th straight year.

Lamb said in his budget message that he was able to avoid any tax increase while maintaining county services “due to moderate tax base growth of approximately 2.68%, increases in sales tax revenue collections and use of previously reserved general fund appropriations for various capital projects.” The reserves will be used for debt service, he said.

“The budget provides sufficient funds to continue current service levels and requires no increase in any general fund taxes or fees,” he told commissioners. “Moreover, the budget will maintain the healthy financial conditions of Nash County.”

Lamb said the increase in the tax base was “due primarily to new construction, increases in personal property and registered vehicles.” He said the county was estimating that sales tax collections for the new fiscal year will increase by 6% over this year.

The proposed budget includes a cost of living adjustment of 5% for all full-time and permanent part-time employees and includes funding for 11 additional full-time positions. Eight of the positions are for the reassigned home health employees and three are for the sheriff’s office.

The budget maintains the current operational funding of $20.5 million for Nash-Rocky Mount Schools plus $1.39 million for capital expenditures and awards Nash Community College $2.3 million for current expenses, $470,000 for capital improvements and a $21,000 capital expenditure of a new lab for Citi High School.

Lamb noted that because the county received a $10 million grant from the state for the new Northern Nash Elementary School, additional lottery funds for debt service will not be available until 2023. He also noted that the county had completed its three-year funding agreement with the school board to boost local supplements for teachers to a minimum of 10%.

“The commissioners are committed to assuring that the 10% supplement for teachers is not reduced in any manner,” he said.

The budget includes modest increases in funding for the county’s municipal libraries, now run by Braswell Memorial Library, which also received a small increase contingent upon its funding partners, Rocky Mount and Edgecombe County, agreeing to pay their increased share of the costs.

Another major change in the budget is the inclusion of a new economic developer to recruit new industry to Nash County, joining the county’s current retail development recruiter. The county last month voted to leave the Carolinas Gateway Partnership effective Oct. 1 and promote its economic development independently.

The county’s 18 fire tax districts have their own rates. For next year, rates in Spring Hope, Bailey, and Middlesex will remain at the current level, but the Whitakers, Castalia and West Mount fire departments are requesting increases.

In the utility funds, all operated as enterprise funds supported only by user fees, the county’s solid waste program is asking for no change in fees, but the water/sewer fund is recommending an increase of $20 in deposit fees for medium and high-risk “new customers” and increased connection fees ranging from $50 to $500 depending on tap size.

By state law, the county budget must be approved before July 1 after a public hearing is held. Lamb is proposing the county commissioners hold the budget hearing on June 3.

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