In an unanimous vote, the Ashe County Board of Commissioners approved the 2014-15 fiscal year budget, which will not increase property taxes in the county.
Commissioner Larry Rhodes made the motion to approve the budget with Commissioner William Sands providing the second. Rhodes, Sands and Commissioner Gary Roark voted to approve the budget.
Commissioners Judy Porter Poe, who was recovering from surgery, and Gerald Price were not present for the vote.
Two changes were made to the budget before being approved. The first, at the request of Sands, will provide a 1 percent increase to the salaries of Ashe County Public Library employees to match the 1 percent increase to the employees of the County of Ashe.
“I would like to recommend that (Ashe County Library employees) have a 1 percent increase in salary, which will amount to around $4,000,” Sands said. “I would like to make a motion that we would allow that.”
The amendment was immediately seconded and passed unanimously.
A second change made to the Ashe County budget came in the form of delaying an appropriation of $2,000 marked for the Ashe Humane Society for its spay/neuter program. The request to remove the funding came during the public hearing, when local veterinarian and Ashe County School Board Member Dr. Lee Beckworth spoke against the funding.
“The county, I don’t think, should be in the business of picking winners or losers when it comes to nonprofits,” Beckworth said. “They are all trying to achieve the same goal.”
The $2,000 that was planned to be provided to the Ashe Humane Society was going to come from animal licence fees in the county.
Beckworth suggested using the money to help the Ashe County Animal Shelter, by having it open on Saturdays and longer than 12 hours weekly.
“The county has accomplished a lot of incredible things working with nonprofits over the years in various areas, but I don’t think those types of partnerships should take money away from the county agencies and their responsibilities,” he said. “Adoptions at the animal shelter have dropped dramatically in recent years, if you don’t count the animals being taken out in large numbers by humane groups. That is due in large part to the animal shelter being open only 12 hours a week.”
Beckworth said with three county employees working 40 hours a week and being open to the public 10 percent of that time, it makes it difficult for the animal shelter to adopt any animals out.
In the budget, the board approved allocating $20,000 to provide a part-time position at the Ashe County Animal Shelter.
Roark, after the vote, said the two board members not in attendance, Poe and Price, were also in support of the 2014-15 FY budget.
Also providing public comment during the hearing before the vote was Todd Carter representing Boone’s Hospitality House and Deanna Stoker program director A Safe Home for Everyone (A.S.H.E.).
This year, the Board of Commissioners agreed to provide $5,000 to Hospitality House.
“I am coming to say thank you, that we the people of Hospitality House, and the homeless citizens of Ashe County are coming to thank you for your acknowledgement of homelessness and your support in this fight to end homelessness,” Carter said. “I appreciate you all being with us on this journey. It means a lot.”
Carter said a donor decided to buy a house to let Hospitality House use for single family residents and the first family using it is from Ashe County. In addition, an Ashe County resident is soon going to be on the Hospitality House’s Board of Directors.
On July 29, the Hospitality House will be hosting a day in dedication to Ashe County as a way for the county’s residents to see what the organization does for homelessness in the area.
Stoker, from A.S.H.E. also stated her thanks for the commissioners helping fund the organization.
“I just came today to thank you for your continued support of our mission and what we do,” she said. “Through your continued funding, we are able to provide 24-hour services to an average of 180 survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault per year.”
Wil Petty can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @WilPetty.