Dare commissioners pass 2023 budget

Published 7:56 am Friday, May 27, 2022

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Dare County Board of Commissioners has unanimously passed its fiscal year 2023 operating and funds budget.

The General Fund, the one used for operating county government, totals $123,964,551.

A dozen separate funds plus the water department’s enterprise fund are part of county’s budget.

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When the general and other funds are combined, the total county budget is $213,456,649.

The budget action on May 16 came after county manager Robert L. Outten made several budget comments and a required public hearing where no comments were received.

Outten reminded the commissioners the budget action is “approving everything tonight.” All funds are included. In years past, the capital improvements budget was considered later. Additionally, the commissioners discussed and Outten included employee actions in a workshop. Outten wanted assurance that the commissioners understood that the workshop decisions were included along with the costs for implementing those decisions. Such decisions include switching merit pay to bonus pay, granting three days of personal leave while eliminating a school leave day, flexible hours, recreating a 401K program and paying for salary study expected later this year.

The budget ordinance grants certain powers to the manager or his designee. Outten said considering the once-per-month commissioners meeting, a time lag may be created for certain actions.

The budget ordinance was modified to increase from $25,000 up to $50,000 the amount of money the manager can move between departments. Any such move must be reported to the Board of Commissioners.

Additionally, the manager is permitted to execute contracts for feasibility, engineering or architectural services and budget amendments for construction contracts up to $50,000.

Outten and finance director David Clawson also pointed out one money transfer in the General Fund and five transfers in the Capital Investment Fund.

Outten reported that the Frisco Fire Prevention Association submitted a late request for a two-cent tax increase for the Frisco Fire Department’s tax district. The purpose of the increase is to build a new station.

Outten told the commissioners that the increase was not in the budget. The fire department volunteers need to talk to Frisco residents and provide additional information about the project.

Board Chairman Robert L. Woodard commented that past actions by the board for Colington and Buxton fire departments made the same requests.

In budget moves for fiscal year 2022, Clawson explained the unassigned fund balance in the General Fund at June 30, 2021 was $9,960,192 over the policy target percentage of 21%.

Adopted recommendations for 2022 uses of the June 30, 2021 unassigned fund balance over the target percentage are:

– $1,811,436 for the Woda Cooper housing project, which when combined with $7,188,564 of savings from the American Rescue Plan Act grant, will provide $9,000,000 from the county for the Bowsertown project.

– $100,000 for the Brightspeed broadband grant match approved at the budget workshop.

– $545,130 to the Law Enforcement Officers Special Separation Allowance irrevocable trust, which will fund the trust up to the June 30, 2021 liability.

– $349,741 for one‐time budget items not in the recommended 2023 manager’s budget and capital improvements plan, planning that the items would be done by this method, including time clock replacements, Register of Deeds for record preservation and aerial imagery and street level photography for revaluation process.

– $1,000,000 to the Other Post-Employment Benefits irrevocable trust for retiree health benefits, to increase the balance by 46% and make further progress towards the June 30, 2021 net liability of $172 million.

– $1,500,000 for county contribution towards a potential workforce housing project (or other housing use).

– $3,496,673 retained in the unassigned fund balance to mitigate against the risk of an economic slowdown or recession during FY 2023.

In February 2022, the board decided to use American Rescue Plan funding to pay Public Safety salaries and fringe benefits for the Sheriff’s Office, Detention Center, Communications and Emergency Management for July 1, 2021 to Feb. 28, 2022.

That move created corresponding savings in the four accounts. An approved budget amendment moved the savings to a Community Development Housing Fund totaling $7,188,564. The total in the housing fund is $9 million to be used in the Woda Cooper project.

Regarding the Burrus Baseball field in Buxton, the commissioners instructed Outten to move ahead on fixing a partially-constructed concession stand and bathrooms at the field. The estimated cost for the project is $69,000 which will come from contingency.