Dare commissioners look at early budget

Published 10:47 am Monday, April 29, 2024

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Dare County’s commissioners took a look at an early budget proposal for fiscal year 2025.

County manager Robert L. Outten and finance director David Clawson showed a balanced General Fund budget of $136.2 million on the second year of a two-year budget cycle.

Outten praised department heads for keeping requests at a minimum.

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Dare County has a new financial system called ClearGov. Previously, new positions were listed by department separate from the agency’s overall budget and the overall bottom line for the General Fund. If approved, the additional salary and fringe benefits would be laboriously added to the agency’s budget. This new system already adds in the salary and fringe benefits to a department’s line item. And a flick of a button can take out that additional salary and fringes.

Outten’s presentation started with new positions requested. He reviewed the requested new full-time or part-time positions or salary changes:

– Finance receives a new fulltime position to handle cyber security.

– Emergency Medical Services will have four new positions, as a new station has opened in Southern Shores.

– Dare libraries earn a part-time position.

– Another aircraft mechanic is brought on board in anticipation of a retirement.

– In Health and Human Services, a child health salary increases by $5,000 for an advanced practice provider and a part-time preparedness coordinator receives a salary bump.

– For Parks and Recreation, a new full-time position for the Roanoke Island/Mainland division is added and part-time employees salaries are proposed to increase to $15 per hour.

– Outten reported that the statewide electronic program switch for court records has been “bad.” The Dare County Sheriff’s Office requested and receives a new full-time administrative position to handle the change-over.

– Water Department receives a new water treatment plant operator, but not six reclassifications of positions.

The positions add $438,764 to the budget.

For the General Fund, Outten ticked off the requests from departments and non-profits. Funded at the amounts indicated are:

Animal shelter: $450,000

College of The Albemarle: $693,741, declined request to fund fuel for emergency generator. Outten said the county would handle that. Total proposed for this year’s budget: $1.22 million

Information Technology: $10,000 for server option

OBX Room in the Inn: $25,000

Hatteras Island Meals: $18,000

Dare County Arts Council: $25,000; funding for anniversary celebration.

Parks and Recreation Department: $50,000 for new programming study.

Cost of living adjustment: additional $528,044 for increasing from 3% to 4%, with fringes.

Dare County Schools: $1.35 million for additional compensation for employees. Outten’s budget shows a total of $30.85 million for the schools.

To fund these items, the proposal will use $5.25 million from investment earnings and $3.91 million in appropriated fund balance, which is 2.99% of revenues. The policy limit is $3%.

In the proposed budget is $630,000 for merit pay, which is currently paid out as a bonus. If paid out as a salary, the additional pay would move employees through the grade classification. Otherwise, employees must wait for another salary study, which occurs every five to seven years.

Robert L. Woodard, Board of Commissioners chair, said about the current system: “I’m not a fan of it. There’s too much subjectivity.”

Outten explained the process. The performance evaluations by supervisors is on a scale up to 5. Outten said 2s should not be employed. Merit pay starts at 3.5.

Toward the end of the meeting, Woodard asked about the $500,000 that the board allocated to build pickleball courts. He said that a 600-member group is building a movement. Outten responded that a user group refused to come to a site on Roanoke Island. However, two sites on the beach have been identified, at the Baum Center and behind the Rec Park gymnasium.

Outten will make a formal presentation of his budget at the next Board of Commissioners meeting. That meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 7, 2024 at 9 a.m. in the Bobby Owens Meeting Room, located at 954 Marshall C. Collins Dr. in Manteo.