Manager: County budget leaves ‘little to argue about’

Published 9:47 am Wednesday, June 1, 2022

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By Mike Barnhardt

Enterprise Record

There’s not much to argue about in the proposed 2022-23 Davie County budget.

At least that’s the description from Interim County Manager Mike Ruffin.

A public hearing on the $95.6 million proposal will be held at the 6 p.m. Monday, June 6 county commissioner’s meeting in the County Administration Building in downtown Mocksville.

The property tax rate would remain the same, at .733 cents per $100 evaluation. The countywide fire tax would remain the same. Users of the county water system will pay 3% more, as the county prepares for constructing a new water plant.

County employees would receive a 2 percent cost of living raise. Most will receive additional pay raises as a result of a recent wage study. They will also receive a one-time $2,000 bonus in October.

One new position was added, a facilities maintenance department worker.

The budget will also put the county’s fund balance closer to guidelines. Not only has the percentage of fund balance fallen below state recommendations, it is well below the county’s own policy of a minimum 25 percent. It is currently at 17.6 percent. The plan is to raise that balance to 20 percent this year, and beyond 25 percent the next, said County Finance Director Robin West. The county used the fund balance to help pay for the new government center on Farmington Road, she said, adding that it was a one-time expenditure that will save the county millions of dollars.

Fire departments, in addition to the fire tax money, will receive an additional $492,557, with $138,000 of that going to Mocksville, Smith Grove and Advance for property tax value increases in those districts.

Davie County Schools will receive some $12.4 million, per the 41.3 percent of revenues agreed upon.  The county is adding $515,000 for teacher supplements.

The tax rate hasn’t been increased – other than according to voters’ wishes on the high school and park referendums – since 2006-2007, West said.

What has increases are sales tax revenues, which highlights the importance of buying local, said Cindy Chapman, the county’s strategy and budget director. “We encourage people to buy local. If they spend in Davie County, we get more.”

West will also present the capital outlay budget for the upcoming year on June 6. Although still a priority, the county will wait at least a year before proceeding with construction of a new jail, monitoring prices along the way. The cost of the jail nearly doubled from the first cost projections to bids that came in earlier this year.

The employee bonuses will be paid with American Rescue Plan funds. The county continues to monitor how those funds can be used, West said. It is scheduled to receive $8.3 million, of which $2.7 million is being allocated this budget for employee raises and bonuses, freeing up tax revenues for one-time building needs.

“It is balanced, maintains services at current levels, implements a sorely needed pay plan, provides cost of living raises and retention bonuses for county employees, continues to ensure sufficient funding to educate our children, and will restore the county’s fund balance to the amount required by the county’s financial policies by the end of next fiscal year,” Ruffin said in his budget message to commissioners. “In short, it is a budget that will meet the expectations of our citizens and provide very little to argue about.”

Ruffin said the budget is performance based, meaning that to be funded, a program or service must prove its worth.

The recent pay study means that 95 percent of county employees will receive a raise.

“I am extremely proud of what we do and believe what we do is very good because of you,” Ruffin said in a letter to employees. “We have very fine, well-trained employees who care about what they do and who they do it for. I’ve worked for seven jurisdictions over my career of 40 years and can honestly say this is the finest group of employees I have ever worked with. You make Davie County special.

“We cannot sit back on our laurels. We are living in times that many of us have never seen. We are concerned about a nuclear strike from our enemies and our economy is at a 40-year low. Times are indeed hard.”

Ruffin said the county is losing employees to nearby jurisdictions, and hopes the new pay scale and bonuses will help retain county workers.

“Government cannot independently solve all of our issues,” he said. “Davie County is filled with wonderful people who volunteer daily to better our community. It takes all of us in conjunction with our towns, county staff, private sector partnerships, nonprofits, faith-based partners and volunteers to effectively serve our county.

“I thank our department directors for their tireless efforts and each county employee who faithfully serves the citizens of Davie County daily. May we collectively continue to move the county forward.”