06/06/14 — Board cuts $500,000 in two hours

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Board cuts $500,000 in two hours

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 6, 2014 1:46 PM

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Wayne County Commissioner Ed Cromartie listens to comments during a budget work session.

It took Wayne County commissioners less than two hours Tuesday afternoon to cut $500,000 from County Manager George Wood's $136 million budget proposal.

Most of the cuts were suggested by Commissioner Joe Daughtery.

For the most part, the cuts centered on delaying vehicle or equipment purchases or trimming line items whose histories were markedly lower than what had been recommended in the budget.

While Commissioners John Bell and Ed Cromartie, the board's two Democrats, raised a few questions, the proceedings lacked the acrimony of last year's budget work sessions,

Bell said he didn't know why commissioners were handling the budget the way they were since it is balanced, contains no excess spending and doesn't have a tax increase. He suggested it was cutting just for the sake of appearances.

Cromartie added that the county would still have to pay for items eventually, even if purchases were delayed or split over two years.

The afternoon session followed the morning's budget public hearing during which the only comments were made by Ken Jones, director of Eastpointe Human Services, and Don Neal, the owner of Waynesborough Family Clinic.

Eastpointe is the agency responsible for managing behavioral health care for people in 12 counties including Wayne. It does not provide the services, but assists people in getting the help such agencies as through Waynesborough Family Clinic.

The proposed budget maintains the current tax rate of 66.65 cents per $100 of appraised property value and does not increase fees.

There are no salary increases for employees, but it does provide a $500 bonus for most full-time county employees who work 40 hours a week.

Daughtery said the $500,000 set aside for the bonuses would be offset by the proposed cuts.

Wood said the cuts also mean the county would be able to reduce the amount of fund balance -- $690,000 -- being used to help balance the budget.

The draft budget maintains the current funding levels for the public schools -- $2 million for capital outlay and $18.2 million for current expense.

The current expense for the schools includes a $125,000 supplemental appropriation. Over the past several years, a fund balance of $526,936 has accrued in the current expense fund. That balance will be distributed as supplemental funding over the next four years.

The budget also includes $42,000 for the Family Drug Court, however, Jones told commissioners during the budget hearing that Eastpointe had a "significant" cut in its budget by the county from $640,000 to zero in the current budget.

Also, the county began charging $120,000 for the agency to lease space at the Borden building so the total impact is $760,000, he said.

The agency made up the difference by using fund balance that will not be available this year, he said.

Being able to use some Medicaid funds means Eastpointe does not need the same level of funding, he said.

However, he said there are programs that he hoped commissioners would fund.

"What we would like to request is $360,000 -- $250,000 for the walk-in clinic," he said. "We have the opportunity this year for additional state funding to open an integrated health care clinic right here in Wayne County. In order to do that, I am estimating we would need around $100,000 to match what we might get from the state."

Eastpointe contracts with Waynesborough Family Clinic to provide those services that include medication, assessment, treatment for those who do not qualify for service, Jones said.

"That provider cannot provide those services for free," he said.

During the afternoon session, Daughtery led the board through a series of proposed cuts culminating in a motion to make them official.

Also, Sheriff Larry Pierce, who was unable to attend the meeting, submitted budget cuts totaling $114,708 -- including $27,00 for two vehicles, $8,000 for ammunition equally split between deputies and the SWAT team, and $28,000 for SWAT equipment.

Wood said he expects that the county will be able to return that money to the budget as the Sheriff's Office brings in revenue from items and cash seized from criminals.

Daughtery's motion was unanimously approved.

Commissioners have indicated they will approve the budget when they meet on June 17.

Copies of the budget proposal are available at Wood's office, online at waynegov.com and at the public libraries in Goldsboro, Mount Olive, Fremont and Pikeville.