DOBSON — Surry County residents can breathe a little easier. There will be no tax increase next year.
During its regular meeting at the Surry County Government Center last night, the county Board of Commissioners approved a budget that will keep the county’s tax rate at the current 58.2 cents per $100 level, choosing instead to help supplement next year’s budget with funds left over from this year.
Next year’s $70,512,445 budget is a far cry from the $79,536,847 budget that was requested by the county’s various departments, and is a little lower than this year’s $72,146,838 budget, county officials said.
Commissioners funded the county’s school systems at $1,060 per student, well below the $1,125 that was requested by school officials, but in line with this year’s funding.
The approved budget also keeps the per-pupil capital outlay funding for the school districts at $50 per student.
County bean counters also adjusted the budget to account for more accurate state enrollment numbers, adding 19 additional students to last year’s enrollment.
The budget also includes an increase of $562,784 in school debt service funding for capital improvement projects.
County officials declined to honor all requests, however, choosing to fund only three vehicles for the county’s sheriff’s office, one jail transport vehicle and two ambulance chassis for emergency medical services.
Two fire departments will see increased tax revenue next year, while the remaining departments’ rates will remain at their current levels.
Four Way had its tax rate changed from 8.5 cents to 9.5 cents in the new budget, and Westfield’s rate increased from 4.7 cents to 5.7 cents.
The approved budget also provides funding for the Northwestern Regional Library at this year’s levels, and the county’s Association of Rescue Squads will be funded at this year’s level.
After approving the budget during last night’s meeting, commissioners said an “enormous” amount of work went into next year’s budget.
“Most of us want to let the public know how hard this budget was,” said Commissioner Jimmy Miller. “We did everything possible to come up with a good budget that would be good for everyone. We had to cut, we did cut, and we aren’t going to satisfy everyone, but this is a good, quality budget.”
Commissioner Garry Scearce agreed.
“This was one of the toughest budgets I’ve seen in my 30 years,” he said.
Commissioner Eddie Harris said putting together the budget hasn’t been easy.
“We tried to balance the public good and be fair to everyone while keeping the county’s taxpayers number one in our minds,” he said.
Paul Johnson, who made the motion to approve the budget, said the county did what it had to do to “not raise taxes and keep the budget at an acceptable level while keeping things going as much as possible.
“I hate for folks to have to suffer, but when our income goes down, we can’t turn on the presses and print more money,” he said. “We’re required by law to have a balanced budget and unlike the state and federal government, we truly balanced our budget.”
Board Chairman R.F. “Buck” Golding said county staff and elected officials have spent the past year trying to come up with sufficient funding.
“We’ve worked through everything we know how to work through to get a budget through without a tax increase,” he said. “I think we’ve done as good a job as we can to cover essential services.
“This board has done a lot of hard work getting this put together, and if you don’t like what we’ve done, we can’t change your mind, but we’ve done the best we can.”
Reach Keith Strange at email@example.com or 719-1929.