“This budget is presented during one of the most difficult economic conditions since the Great Depression,” Yadkin County’s Deputy Manager Aaron Church wrote in the over 200-page report prepared for the commissioners
Copies of the budget are available at the county offices and online at www.yadkincountync.gov. A public hearing on it will be held at 7 p.m. June 7.
“Revenue estimates are cautious and the best projection that can be made at this point in time. It’s conservative and it’s tight,” wrote Church.
When discussions first began on balancing the county’s annual budget about six weeks ago, there were estimates of a potential difference between revenues and expenses of up to $4 million.
While much of the difference was made up of organizational changes and the freezing of employee salaries, much of it will come from the county’s fund balance, which serves as a financial cushion for unexpected expenditures.
“This budget appropriates $2,128,951 from the General Fund’s fund balance to balance the budget,” said Church.
In the audited financial statement for Yadkin County dated June 30, 2009, the unrestricted and unreserved portion of the general fund fund balance was approximately $8 million.
The use of the general fund fund balance to balance the budget, however, came with a warning from Church.
“We can’t continue to pull from that fund,” said Church Tuesday.
The primary reason for the budget’s potential shortfall was a decrease in revenues, from nearly every source.
Sales tax revenues are projected to be at least $500,000 lower during fiscal year 2010/11 than during the current fiscal year. That represents a 10 percent decrease in revenues from $5.1 million to $4.6 million.
“The property tax is down by about two percent,” Church reported. The county generally receives approximately $17.7 million from property taxes. Church projected receiving about $350,000 less during the upcoming fiscal year.
He also expected interest income in the county’s investment to be off by approximately $225,000.
“Statewide local governments have been hit hard by the current economic recession,” he said. “In Yadkin County, sales tax and state revenues have decreased significantly, while property tax collections are down. This budget addresses those economic impacts through conservative revenue estimates, controlled spending and implementation of no new programs.”
With no new spending proposed, that means, said Church, the funding level for the Yadkin County School System will remain at the 2009/10 level of $7,492,000, which represents approximately 20 percent of annual spending in the overall county budget.
The budget maintains the current level of education funding, Church said. Church said that overall department spending was reduced by about 1.2 percent.
However, three departments will see an increase in funding for the upcoming fiscal year.
The Yadkin County Sheriff’s Department will see a $68,517 increase. The sheriff’s department will operate during fiscal year using $3.9 million of county funds
The Emergency Medical Services department will see an additional $30,754. The Veterans Services department will see an increase in overall funding of $1,300.
The tax base is projected to be $2,769,626,577, including real and personal property plus vehicles, according to the budget.
This keeps the property tax rate of $0.74 per $100 of valuation at a 94 percent collection rate for real and personal property.
As an examples of the choices made to balance the budget, Church offered several decisions made to save money.
In vehicles, departments asked for 14 new vehicles at $447,357, but only three of the 14 are in the recommended budget, including one new sheriff’s department vehicle and two new ambulances at $165,000.
The county has saved $7,000 a year by eliminating 10 cell phones and three mobile air cards. Cutting out five copier contracts saved $9,000.
Yadkin County is now negotiating with insurers for health insurance, and there may be an estimated 10 percent increase.
“While we have not experienced inflation to date, the cost of health care continues to soar,” Church reported. “Last year each employee received a $500 credit toward health care. This budget recommends a $600 credit.”
Church ended his presentation with a very serious caveat after pointing to what may have been the bottom of the recession on a chart.
“The trend is going up,” he said. “This is what would hurt us. This would be terrible. If we would see this (pointing at his graph’s downward plunge) this month or the next month, we have not hit the bottom with local government sales tax which means even though the stock market may have hit a bottom, unless there is a double-dip recession, that we may have still further down to go.
“If that’s the case, things do not look good for Yadkin County or for any of the 100 counties in the state. This is a scary picture, and this may happen. I don’t know which way it’s going to go. Revenue estimates in conclusion are cautious.
“If the economy doesn’t improve and goes down, one of three things, maybe two, will have to happen or a combination. That is a RIF, a reduction in force, a layoff, sending employees home. Number two, raise property taxes, number three deplete the fund balance.”
Commission lifts hiring freeze for sheriff dept.
Board Chairman Chad Wagoner brought up the county’s hiring freeze that has been place since October 2009.
Wagoner raised the subject because the Yadkin County Sheriff’s Department had requested permission to hire a new employee in spite of the freeze.
“I don’t know that the hiring freeze should apply to the Sheriff’s Department,” he said. “We are elected officials that have to try to strive to do what we were put into office to do, unlike with department heads. With the sheriff’s office you also have another duly-elected person who is at the helm of that department who has to answer to the people who put him into office.
“If the sheriff operates his department within the budgetary parameters we have set for him, I personally do not have a problem with the freeze not applying to the sheriff’s office as it is a public safety issue.”
Brady Wooten, board member, asked, “What exactly is the request?”
Wagoner said it was for the hiring of Heather Shew to fill a position in the department.
“This hiring freeze should be honored,” said Wooten. “When you have a hiring freeze, when you freeze a position, you also freeze the money that goes with it.”
“I’ll catch some flak from some department heads, and I’ll take it,” added Wagoner. “My thing this is in the public’s best interest in regards to safety.”
“We’re supposed to make special rules for one department where all other departments have to go by another set of rules,” said Wooten.
“That’s not my intent,” said Wagoner.
Wooten said that if you add another position outside the freeze, you are undermining the freeze.
“I tend to agree with Chad,” said Tommy Garner, board member. “Anything that has to do with public safety should not have a freeze. Now other departments are different.”
“All the departments should be treated the same,” said Wooten. “I think we should honor public safety too.”
Wooten said he talked to the N.C. Institute of Governments on the hiring freeze Monday morning.
“A hiring freeze, when it is put into place, applies to all departments,” Wooten said.
Austin made a motion about the hiring freeze.
After the discussion, a motion was made to lift the hiring freeze to allow five public safety-related departments the ability to hire up to four employees if there was a sudden need.
That motion passed it with Garner and Wooten voting against it.
“What?” joked Garner to laughter.
“Now you have your positions available,” said Wagoner.
Wooten asked why the board was voting on an employee to be hired by the sheriff’s department when it usually does not do that.
“Because it’s a relative of the sheriff,” Wagoner replied.
“Why in the world does that statute exist?” asked board member Kevin Austin. “Why does it only exist for the sheriff’s office?” It exists for the Register of Deeds office too.
“How many family members work in the Sheriff’s Department?” Wooten asked.
Board members learned that the sheriff has four relatives working in his department.
“I certainly think it’s up to the sheriff to answer for who he hires,” said Austin. “We don’t answer to that.” Shew was hired 4-1.
Interim County Manager Jim Haynes said Church spent a lot of time and energy on this budget and should be commended.
“I will tell you that Aaron understands how this county operates and how the employees are,” Haynes said. “You name it, and that man has studied it. He’s the person who knows this budget and is responsible and should be credit for putting it together.”
Other commission business
In other commission business, there was a resolution offered on appropriating $50,000 from the general fund to cover the cost of any legal fees commissioners might incur as a result threatened or real civil lawsuits.
Commissioner Austin asked the board to suspend the rules to order to allow the board to take up the $50,000 appropriation resolution immediately.
A two-thirds vote of the board must be achieved to suspend the rules allowing for an immediate vote on new business.
“If you make the motion, I’ll second it,” said Wooten.
Austin made the motion. “I’ll second that,” said Wooten.
The motion failed three to two.
The appropriation question was put on the agenda for the next meeting.
Action was taken by the Yadkin County Board of Commissioners on the fraud hotline contract Monday night with Global Compliance selected.
The suggested measure had been in the county audit for several years, and finally the board got around to enacting it.
Granville County has the system and is pleased with it. The company also services Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital, Alleghany Memorial Hospital in Sparta, Duke Energy Corp., Rack Room Shoes and other companies.
The Yadkin County Board of Commissioners recognized the Forbush High School Varsity Cheerleading Team for winning a national championship.
The team includes Rian Anthony, Danielle Bowman, Nichole Byrd, Crystal Driver, Madison Faircloth, Samantha Foster, Ashley Hobson, Hannah Hobson, Kara Honaker, Kelly Hoots, Morgan Howell, Wendy Hutchens, Catherine Joyce, Kaitlen Mann, Tori Mathes, Kacy Millirons, Krendle Norman, Lyndsay Roberts, Savanna Royall, Anna Sale, Tiffany Varner, Heather Wagoner, Emily Waldroup and Emily Winslow.
One item didn’t make the official agenda, and a vote to drop and suspend the meeting rules failed to force it to be discussed, but a proposed draft resolution for “County Paid Legal Counsel” still sounded interested.
“I move to appropriate $50,000 from the General Fund fund balance to the Professional Service Line Item for the purpose to cover any legal fee cost incurred based on the resolution for county paid legal counsel,” it read.
It noted that public officials “are liable for the torts they commit, just as private individuals are liable.”
“Under the state law of North Carolina, it is not likely that a commissioner can be successfully sued for an unintentional failure to adequately perform the duties of office, they can still be sued for fulfilling their responsibilities of their office.”
It noted that potential liability under federal law is “a more serious problem based on Section 1983 recognizing constitutional tort.”
In other business the Yadkin County Farmer’s Market is open every Tuesday in the parking lot of the Masonic Lodge in Yadkinville with hours from 3-6 p.m. Vendors sell fresh produce, plants, honey, baked goods, homemade crafts, eggs, goat dairy products, herbs and flowers.
A hot dog lunch will be held Friday, May 21 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Yadkinville Senior Center at $5 a person for two hot dogs, chips, a drink and dessert.
The Yadkin County Veterans Council will hold a special Memorial Day Ceremony at the Yadkin County Park Monday, May 31 at 11 a.m, according to Veteran Services Supervisor Chuck Knight.
According to Yadkin County Animal Control Supervisor Jerry Hutchens, the April activity report from April 1-30 included 244 responses with 26 cats picked up, 13 cats turned in, 63 traps set, 19 dogs turned in, four adoptions, four redemptions, three bites, one sent to the state lab and no positive rabies cases.