Dare’s county manager presents recommended budget

Published 8:21 pm Sunday, May 28, 2023

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Dare’s county manager Robert L. Outten presented his recommended budget for fiscal year 2024 to the Dare County Board of Commissioners on May 17, 2023.

A Board of Commissioners hearing on the proposed budget will be held June 5, 2023. The meeting starts at 9 a.m.

The budget total for all funds is $224,553,176.

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The General Fund, which is the county’s operating budget, totals $130,083,408. Contributing to the $224.6 million budget total are capital investment at $27.8 million, special revenue at $50.8 million, water fund at $15.5 million and other in the general fund at $331,728.

The county manager is recommending no change in the property tax rate, which remains 40.05 cents per $100 valuation.

For employees, the recommended budget calls for a 3% cost of living adjustment in fiscal year 2024 at an annual amount of $1,538,012. The budget continues to fund the increases called for in the salary study and implemented Jan. 1, 2023 at a cost of $1,867,857.

Outten reported he looked at a 5% increase but the 3% is “what we can afford.”

In the presentation, the employee turnover rate between Jan. 1 and April 30, 2023 was 2.28%. The number of full-time vacancies is reported at 64 positions.

The recommended budget reports “the health plan has no projected increase for 2024.”

The budget recommends adding one position but eliminating 11 positions, all per department requests.

The grounds maintenance program drops two vacant positions and the recycling program eliminates three vacant positions. In both instances, the programs are turning to contractors.

Six grant-funded positions are eliminated in the health department, with two employees filling vacancies in the Detention Center and the Sheriff’s Office.

One position of a senior social worker supervisor in health is added.

Dare County Schools will receive $26,895,243 for school operating costs under the funding formula developed in 2016. Additionally, the county will spend $1,411,058 from its operating budget for school nurses and school resource officers.

The budget document catalogues these increases and explanations for departments:

– Animal Shelter: The budget adds $27,450 to the SPCA contract for operating costs. This is the first increase in its budget for many years.

– College of The Albemarle: The budget maintains $250,000 for local scholarships to the College of The Albemarle. The budget adds $29,736 for additional operating costs.

– Detention Center: $98,742 is added for operating cost increases across 11 line items.

– Emergency Medical Services: $667,181 is added for items to be prioritized by the EMS director and approved by the county manager.

– Emergency Medical Services Helicopter: $185,326 is added for fuel and other operating costs increases.

– Grounds Maintenance: An increase of $58,683 is included, net of two eliminated positions, to change to contracted services for a portion of job tasks. This change is the result of an inability to attract qualified applicants, even with the recent salary increases.

– Health Department: The budget of the Health Department decreases by $207,711. The budget eliminates six grant-funded positions and adds one senior social worker supervisor position. The dental van program is eliminated because of the county’s inability to hire a dentist even with a competitive salary. These services will be replaced with a contract service covered by Medicare and other non-county reimbursements.

– Information Technology: $155,720 is added for Google Services cost increases mainly for email retention required by public information laws.

– Parks and Recreation: $52,153 is added for programming supplies, officials and fuel costs.

– Recycling: The budget is reduced by a net of $117,200 by eliminating three long-vacant positions and converting the tasks to contracted services.

– Sheriff: $66,600 is added mainly for fuel costs.

– Tax Assessment: $68,047 is added for costs for the 2025 revaluation to be effective Jan. 1, 2025.

– Transfers to other funds:

The transfer to the Capital Investment Fund is maintained at the board policy at the 2019 amount of $10,425,000. An additional transfer of $625,626 is included to cover one-time cost items in the Capital Investment Fund.

Transfers in total are reduced as the 2023 $2,668,117 one-time local current expense reduction to Dare County Schools was used to make one-time transfers of $2,000,000 to the Storm Water Fund and $668,117 to the Inlet Maintenance Fund.

The Capital Improvements Plan was not included in May 17 budget presentation. It may or may not be available June 5. The financing models are in development to determine the timeline for capital projects.

The budget document also explains various special funds:

– Disaster Recovery: $100,000 for initial response to any emergency. The ending fund balance for disaster recovery is required to be 1% of the General Fund. At June 30, 2022, the fund balance as 1.10%.

– Beach Nourishment Fund: Budget is set by the financial model. All 2022 projects are completed, including Duck. In fiscal year 2024, expenditures will be down because of the completed projects.

– Sanitation Fund: The tax rate is increased from 10 cents per $100 evaluation to 11 cents per the recommendation of the solid waste study completed in 2022. The report and model plan for a one cent increase in three of the four following years to 13.0 cents in 2027.

The study also determined that the county should switch to a higher grade, more expensive truck chassis with a longer life and lower maintenance cost, resulting in a lower lifetime cost. The 2023 budget included, per the study, a higher number of truck replacements, five instead of three and financing those trucks over 59 months instead of 36 months.

– Water Fund: The 2024 recommended budget shows a 2% annual rate increase over the next five years.

As requested, the tax rate for Frisco Volunteer Fire Department is increased two cents to 6.81 cents. The additional revenue will be used to build a new fire station. No other fire district, rescue squad or community building is showing an increase in the proposed budget.