Brunswick commissioners schedule public hearing on budget

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Brunswick County commissioners are seeking the public’s feedback on the county’s proposed $214 million budget before it takes effect July 1. A public hearing is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. June 15 at the county commission chambers in Bolivia.

Brunswick County Manager Ann Hardy presented county commissioners with her recommended budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which is an increase of 1.9 percent of the current year’s budget, at a meeting last month.

Hardy’s recommended $214.2 million budget includes a revenue-neutral property tax rate of 48.5 cents per $100 of property valuation. The county underwent a property revaluation in January, which saw the county’s assessed value of all properties drop 10 percent, Hardy said. The budget includes a $3 million fund balance appropriation.

“The schedule of proposed fees, which includes all proposed new fees or fee changes, fines and costs of whatever nature, shall also be the subject of this hearing and shall include the Smithville Township tax, the municipal collection fee, health department charges, utility fees, and any other charge or fee collected by Brunswick County,” Brunswick County Spokeswoman Amanda Hutcheson said.

The value of 1 cent on the tax rate is $2.1 million, compared to $2.3 million in the current fiscal year. The county tax on a home valued at $250,000 would be $1,212, and the county tax on a vehicle with a $25,000 value would be $121.

“The recommended budget is based upon the revenue-neutral ad valorem tax rate of 48.5 cents, which is an increase of 4.25 cents over the current rate of 44.25 cents,” Hardy said. A revenue-neutral tax rate is one that is projected to produce the same amount of revenue equal to the current year’s revenue if a revaluation had not occurred.

Hardy’s proposed budget includes a pay scale increase of 1 percent for all county employees and a 1- to 2-percent merit increase for eligible county employees. An additional $800,000 was allocated to the county’s board of elections for November’s municipal elections, as well as next year’s presidential primary, May primary and a possible second primary for training in the state’s new voter ID requirement.

Central government is slated to receive $12.1 million, public safety–including the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office–is budgeted for $35.3 million, human services are expected to receive $27.7 million and economic development is tapped to receive $5.7 million.

Hardy recommends an allocation of $34.49 million to Brunswick County Schools, which was based on the board’s longstanding funding agreement with the Brunswick County Board of Education. Following a heated discussion on the matter, a divided school board decided 3-2 to adopt the agreement with the county at a meeting in May.

Read related story: Divided Brunswick school board approves county funding agreement

“The county is recommended to enter into a funding agreement with the Brunswick County Board of Education through June 30, 2017,” Hardy said. “The terms of the agreement are substantially identical to prior agreements. The requirements are for the county to provide 36.5 percent of the ad valorem tax revenue to the schools for operating expenditures less the portion of the tax rate dedicated to pay debt service.”