Workshop sets budget course for Dare

Published 6:22 am Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Dare County Manager Bobby Outten and department heads spoke with county commissioners about 2020 budget decisions at a workshop on April 17.

Budget requests from departments arrived on Outten’s desk at the end of February. In early March, Dare’s commissioners gathered in a retreat and provided budget guidance for Outten.

Discussions are not final until the budget is formally adopted, but here are the possibilities for county employees:

Get the latest headlines sent to you

Health insurance premiums will not rise. Dare’s medical insurance debt is now gone. MedCost Medical Insurance will not increase for the county and the two insurance plans offered by the county will continue unchanged for the coming fiscal year.

A cost-of-living adjustment of 1.2 percent is included in current budget documents. Some $478,754 is slated for this salary adjustment.

A new employee performance evaluation system is under development. In prior years, merit pay was divided among departments. Under the new proposed plan, all employees will be rated on a scale from 1 (shouldn’t be here very long), 2 (do what’s needed to get to 3), 3 for most employees, 4 and 5, merit increase. Merit pay, which is an addition to base pay, will be awarded to those with the highest ratings. For merit pay, $450,000 is the budgeted amount available.

A 401k retirement savings account for employees was considered, but Outten reported that the budget couldn’t afford the program. Board of Commissioners Chairman Robert L. Woodard pegged a 401k program as a long term goal.

The county’s personnel manual is out-of-date and inconsistent with practice. The proposal is to hire a consultant for $20,000 to rewrite the manual.

In that regard, several personnel policies were discussed:

Vacation days were discussed. Currently, Dare employees receive 12 vacation days from five to 20 years of service; after 20 years, the number of days goes to 15. A proposal is to grow the number of days in five years increments: five years, 12 days; five to 10 years, 15 days; 10 to 15 years, 18 days; 15 to 20, 21 days; 20 to 25 years, 24 days; and 25 to 30 years, 27 days.

The board also discussed flex-time and storm time.

The budget proposal is only for fiscal year 2020. Normally, Outten would propose a two-year budget. Outten said three factors led to this decision: sales tax redistribution is under consideration in the General Assembly through S.B. 650; revaluation is underway; and an economic slowdown may be in the offing.

Dare County Schools budget from the county’s General Fund will increase $697,447 according to the school budget formula. The county will send $23,230,449 to the schools. According to state Department of Instruction figures, Dare funds 92 teacher positions and 123 additional positions including 23 teacher assistants.

Additional Dare County positions may be added in the final budget, including two sheriff’s deputies, three paramedics, a physical therapist for Home Health and Hospice, a person for facilities maintenance, a full-time person for grants and waterways and a part-time pilot for Dare MedFlight.

The Soil and Water Conservation position will become full-time. Funding is in the planning department budget for a master stormwater plan. A position reclassification will move the current planner to assistant planning director.

One position in administration is eliminated while another is created in Public Relations to deal with various writing duties now associated with the position of clerk to the Board of Commissioners.

A position is reclassified in Human Relations to create someone responsible for employee training. One person is moved to Human Relations from General Services and not replaced.

Public Works loses one-half position.

The position of health director is filled by Sheila Davies, who is also in the role of director of Health and Human Services. The health director line item was deleted.

Outten declined to fund a part-time position for the Dare County Center to hire someone to keep the center open on Saturday. An additional mosquito control person was also declined.

An increase in water rates is expected on July 1. Both rates for volume and base rate increase by three percent.

No ad valorem or property tax increase is recommended.

A capital investment fund will be created as a separately budgeted fund of the General Fund. The existing Capital Reserve Fund will be eliminated and the Capital Improvement Plan moved to the new fund. The new Capital Investment Fund will draw revenue from restricted sales taxes, lottery funds, net land transfer tax and revenue from the General Fund. Debt service and capital outlay will come from the new fund.

New funding for scholarships for College of The Albemarle students is included. A total of $250,000 is allocated.

The manager’s budget will be presented at a May meeting of the Board of Commissioners.