The Scotland County Board of Commissioners reviewed the county’s preliminary budget during its Monday meeting, and plans to move ahead with the proposed three-cent tax increase.
This comes in advance of its joint meeting with the Scotland County Board of Education, planned for June 14 at 6 p.m.
The commissioners were hesitant to share any expectations they might have for that meeting,
In Scotland County Manager Kevin Patterson’s presentation of the budget, there were no significant changes since the board’s budget workshop two weeks ago.
According to board chairman Bob Davis, the next move for the county is to now attempt to reach a compromise with the school board before the county’s budget is finalized. The school system’s budget was criticized by the board of commissioners during the recent budget workshop, and several questions arose from those workshop meetings.
Of particular interest to the board is a proposed $75,000 fence that was budgeted by the school system for the purpose of securing the Scotland High School campus.
“The next thing sit down with the school board and discuss our budget and their budget,” said Davis.
With a general fund budget total of $36.6 million the county will attempt to restore some of the benefits it has taken from its employees over the past year.
Included in the budget is the restoration of 1/2 of the current employee furlough, which would restore 1.25-percent of employees’ pay. This does not, however, restore longevity or 401k contributions.
The new budget also increases employee health insurance deductibles from $1500 to $2000 effective January 1, 2013. The county will still, however, cover 100-percent of employee premium.
Of the current county budget $10,397,337 will go to education, followed by $4,983,523 to public safety and $3,335,834 to human services. Of the human services budget, $2,199,998 goes to the Department of Social Services.
“DSS and the health department have seen their numbers almost cut in half,” Patterson said Monday, adding that most of those cuts came at the expense of employees.
The Scotland County Education budget is broken down such that $10,075,654 goes to current school expense, while $246,683 goes to Richmond Community College with a further $75,000 dedicated to the early college program.
The details of that education budget will be discussed at length when the two boards meet later this month.
It also seems likely that the appearance of the Scotland County real estate tax card will be changing for next year, as the board agreed to have a mock-up made for a new card based on a Surry County/Cherokee County tax card hybrid.
The card, which will likely cost $7,000 additional dollars to produce, will come as a full page in an envelope and will likely include a complete budgetary breakdown, including dollars and percentages.
This was a move by the board to avoid “singling out” school system funds, which some board members felt were incorrectly labeled a “school tax” on the current county tax card.
“This also serves to give the people the information they deserve, and I think people really will look at this thing to see where their money is going,” said Commissioner John Cooley.
The county expects to have its budget finalized by June 25.
Also on the agenda was the appointment of current county tax appraiser Marty Pate to the position of tax collector, which has been vacant since March of this year.
Upon Patterson’s recommendation, Pate was approved unanimously to the post.
She was an appraiser and worked well in that department,” said Patterson of her qualifications.
“She demonstrated strong interest in learning and an ability to perform the job,” he added.
In other business, the commissioners voted to restore their stipend, which had been reduced by half last year.