Board Passes Budget

Published 3:36 pm Tuesday, April 16, 2013

CUMBERLAND – The Cumberland Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to keep the County tax rates static and approve the Five-Year Capital Improvement Program (CIP) plan, with one funded item, during their April 9 meeting.

However, the budget was a more contentious matter, finally passing on a three-two vote, after two failed motions.

The $27,756,008 budget approved by the board is distinguished by level-funding for the school system and library and cuts to community service organizations and economic development expenditures.

Email newsletter signup

If the budgeted expenditures for the 2013-2014 fiscal year were a pie, more than half of it would be gone after the county funded the schools and paid its debt.

Of the approximately $13.8 million in expenditures, payments for debt and funding of the schools take more than a quarter of the pie each, according to the advertised budget the board approved last week. The schools will receive $85,000 more than the County's creditors do in the upcoming fiscal year.

The County currently owes over $45 million in debt, according to a treasurer's report dated March 14.

According to the administration's report on the budget, payment on the new middle/high school complex makes up 63.8 percent of the County's scheduled debt payments in the approved budget.

The next largest expense for the County is the approximately $2,000,000 that goes toward public safety expenses such as the sheriff's office, Piedmont Regional Jail and local volunteer fire departments and rescue squads.

General government administration and public works each take roughly one tenth of the money pie, with $1.3 and $1.2 million going to each respectively.

Over half of the County's revenue is projected to come from general property taxes. And, some supervisors are concerned that the estimated income from general property taxes will be negatively impacted when the County's current reassessment is completed.

Following the vote on the budget, Vice-Chairman Lloyd Banks, District Two, brought up the reassessment, stating, “I think, in my opinion, some of the revenues that are built into what we're actually budgeting for this year are grossly overstated…

“We all know that the second half of the year we're going to be impacted by lower home values and that's going to impact our revenue. So, already we're looking at this with blinders on before we even get started.”

After two thwarted motions proposed by Supervisors Bill Osl, District One, and Parker Wheeler, District Five, the budget passed on a three-two vote, largely unchanged from County Administrator and Attorney Vivian Giles' recommended budget.

The only major alteration to the presented budget was the board's decision to use funding from Meals on Wheels to make payments on Randolph Volunteer Fire Department's Engine 42.

Osl announced at the beginning of the budget discussion that he had spoken to the chairman of Meals on Wheels and the organization would not use the $15,600 slated for them. Osl moved that the proposed budget be modified to move the money from Meals on Wheels and instead be used to fund STEPS and Piedmont Area Transit.

After Osl's motion failed, Wheeler moved that the budget not be approved as presented, which also failed. Both motions were opposed by Chairman David Meinhard, District Four, Supervisor Kevin Ingle, District Three and Banks. Osl and Wheeler supported both.

Ingle made the third budget motion, moving that the excess funds from Meals on Wheels be used to make payments on Randolph Volunteer Fire Departments' Engine 42. The yearly payment totals $11,820.

Upon questioning from Ingle, Giles explained that because the tanker payment was a CIP item and the CIP was not funded in the budget presented to the board, the payments would not be made by the County if it were approved without amendment.

The motion to fund the engine payments with monies originally slated for Meals on Wheels was passed unanimously by the board.

Meinhard then moved that the board approve the budget as advertised and amended by Ingle. Ingle, Banks and Meinhard voted in favor. Osl and Wheeler were opposed.

Following the vote, Osl stated that he had several issues and concerns regarding the budget. “I know that the schools, the educational system, our public safety, water, sewer, are important infrastructures for economic development in a community such as ours,” Osl said.

“We've eliminated the economic development position in Cumberland County. And, we eliminated funding of some small organizations, things like Lee's Retreat and Virginia Heartlands. That's $4,500 where we got 500,000 pieces of advertising.

“Now, we get zero, because we're not using that money. And that just feels to me that it's anti-business, anti-growth,” continued Osl.

He went on to suggest that more focus be put on generating business and revenues, instead of just cutting the budget.

Banks responded, “I don't believe anybody in the county is opposed to new business. I don't know that throwing money at some of these projects is necessarily the answer.”

“We welcome business. We certainly have people within the County that are encouraging business to come in,” Banks continued.

“But,” Banks said, “at the same time, we have to look at lowering our debt. We have to look at not raising taxes. We have to look at cutting expenses. We have to look at living within our means.”

The CIP plan, which included over $7,000,000 in projects, was approved unanimously by the board. While the original budget proposal included no funding for capital improvements, because of the amended budget, the tanker project was funded.

According to the plan, $3.5 million will be needed to fund capital projects in the 2014-2015 fiscal year.