Proposed budget presented to county commissioners

By: W. Curt Vincent - Bladen Journal

ELIZABETHTOWN — The county’s proposed 2018-19 fiscal year budget, compiled and presented by Bladen County Manager Greg Martin, was brought before the Board of Commissioners on Monday.

The $56,923,870 budget includes a general fund balance of $43,019,154 — a .54 percent decrease from the current budget.

“The budget is balanced and identifies all revenue and expenditure estimates …” Martin said.

The proposed budget will maintain a tax rate of 82 cents per $100 of valuation and solid waste disposal and collection fees would remain the same for the 19th consecutive year. But Martin pointed out that a number of factors will potentially be a financial burden on the county going forward.

“There are several ongoing issues of real concern to Bladen County,” he said. “Those external threats include the GenX issue with Chemours, the water problem at White Lake and the hog farm litigation against Smithfield.”

Martin added that each of those issues could have an impact on the county’s tourism and property values, which, in turn, could have adverse financial implications.

Perhaps one of the most-watched budget items each year is the appropriation from the county to Bladen County Schools, and this budget process has been no different.

According to the proposed 2018-19 fiscal year budget, the county would send $6,938,397 to the school district — which represents a 2-percent increase, or a total of $134, 211 over the current fiscal year budget. It would also restore $251,503 previously reserved for an undetermined capital project.

Martin pointed out that a recent report published by the Public School Forum of North Carolina showed Bladen County was No. 65 out of 100 counties in actual effort to support its public schools.

“However, while Bladen County ranks 76 out of 100 counties in ability to pay, it actually ranks 20th in relative effort,” Martin said. “This information provides a strong reflection of the good faith effort made by Bladen County in funding public education.”

The proposed budget would also appropriate $984,963 to Bladen Community College, which is a 2.7-percent increase over the current budget and fully funds the request made by the college.

Other highlighted proposed budget items include:

— Four full-time positions would be funded for detention officers at Bladen County Detention Center.

— A 1.5 percent cost of living adjustment, longevity and holiday bonus would be given to county employees.

— A retirement contribution increase from 7.57 percent to 7.82 percent for general employees; and a retirement contribution increase from 8.25 percent to 8.5 percent for law enforcement.

— Funding totaling $196,502 for the Bladen County Forest Service.

— Funding totaling $40,000 for Elizabethtown’s Curtis Brown Airport.

— Funding totaling $25,000 for the county’s volunteer rescue squads.

— Funding totaling $15,600 for the Bladen County Water Rescue.

— Funding total $3,500 for the Elizabethtown-White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce.

“This budget invests heavily in funding for education, public safety and human services,” Martin told commissioners.

The Board of Commissioners will hold a series of budget workshops to discuss any tweaks necessary before a final vote is held next month. Those workshops will be held at 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 31; Monday, June 4; and Wednesday, June 6.

W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or cvincent@bladenjournal.com.

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W. Curt Vincent

Bladen Journal