Recommended FY23 budget for Currituck raises employee pay, responds to growth
Published 8:06 am Saturday, June 18, 2022
Currituck’s county manager Ike McRee presented to commissioners his recommended 2022-23 fiscal year budget totaling $126,914,856. Commissioners will vote on the budget June 20.
The General Fund – which funds education, human services, public safety, community services, planning and general government services – accounts for over half of the budget at $68,400,218. Most of the General Fund is supported through revenues from property tax, sales tax, transfer tax, permits and fees.
For Currituck County residents, the property tax will remain the same for the fiscal year at 46 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. This is tied for the ninth lowest in the state. In comparison, the lowest rate in the state is 33 cents in Carteret and the highest is $1 in Scotland. The neighboring county of Dare has a rate of 40.05 cents; the fith lowest in the state. McRee noted that unlike most counties, Currituck does not have local municipalities that fund services; all resources come from the county.
For fiscal year 22, the taxable value for the property tax base equaled $8.229 billion. Expected property tax revenue (real property and motor vehicles) for FY23 is $37,505,112. The tax base this year is split 50/50 between the beach (Corolla and Corova) and the mainland.
Sales tax revenue is estimated to be $13,650,000, which is 22.9% greater than last year.
McRee identified four themes that the FY23 budget seeks to respond to: maintaining quality and efficient services; continuing its partnership with Currituck County Schools to fund school appropriations and capital construction needs; increasing pay for all employees to retain and recruit quality employees and soften economic pressures they are experiencing; and enhancing the county’s infrastructure to address and prepare for continued development and population growth.
Regarding county employee pay, McRee recommended an increase for full-time positions to $15 per hour minimum. “We have some hard, hard-working employees whose positions only pay them maybe $11 per hour, in some cases less, and so I appreciate the board’s willingness at least in work sessions to increase at least the minimum pay to $15 per hour.”
McRee is also suggesting, based on a compensation study, to offer a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) of 4% of base salary to full-time employees, as well as to increase the starting salaries for the deputy trainee position, deputy certified position and senior deputy position to “enhance the sheriff’s office recruitment for quality law enforcement officers.” The recommended FY23 budget will also cover the increase in employee retirement system contribution rate.
Part of the reason for increased employee pay is to recognize employees for the hard work they do and to increase competitiveness. McRee stated that there are currently 28 vacancies in county employee positions.
There are changes coming to the county’s health insurance policy, too. According to public information officer Randall Edwards, the county is switching from 80/20 coverage to 70/30. “This was accepted in order to keep each employee’s monthly premium expense as low as possible. As a result, it will be almost exactly the same as the current plan. If this had not been done, the monthly premiums would have increased significantly. The Board did not want to impose a larger monthly premium on the employees,” Edwards said in an email to The Coastland Times in response to a query regarding comments circulating in the community that the premiums and deductibles were rising.
Deductibles will remain the same and premiums be almost identical to the previous plan, Edwards said.
New county positions are proposed for an animal care technician, library assistant, park attendant and utility operations manager.
Currituck County has experienced significant growth in the last several years, primarily in the Moyock community. While this has expanded the tax base, according to McRee’s presentation, “This growth has put demands on County utilities, schools, and other central services. One of the primary focuses in the upcoming year is to fund schools and expand the water and sewer infrastructure.”
Major financial appropriations from the General Fund include public safety (38%), education (24%), general government (17%), human services (9%), debt management (5%) cultural and recreation (4%) and community development and protection (3%).
Broken down by type, personnel services comprise 44% of the general fund appropriations, followed by education (32%), operating expenses (16%), debt service (4%) and capital outlay (4%). Education is higher this year because of a contribution to College of The Albemarle in the amount of almost a quarter of a million dollars. “We participate with other area counties in helping to fund that very strong community college and its programs,” McRee said.
Currituck County Schools is the highest funded department, receiving almost $14.5 million. This equals a per-student cost of $2,817 for each of the projected 4641 students in the county, an increase of 421 students from last year. This rate puts Currituck County among the top 15 in the state, according to commissioners.
There are utility rate increases coming that the board voted on previously. These include 3.5% annual increases for Mainland Water, Southern Outer Banks Water, Ocean Sands Sewer; 6% increase for Mainland Sewer; and increases for Mainland 4×4 Solid Waste ($81 the first year and 3.5% annually after) and Corolla Solid Waste ($151 the first year, and 3.5% annually after).
The board will vote on the budget on June 20 and the new budget will go into effect on July 1, 2022. Residents are encouraged to share their thoughts or concerns with commissioners by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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