James Howell | Jefferson Post
The Ashe County Board of Commissioners listened to Ashe County Manager Dr. Pat Mitchell as she commented during the budget meeting. The board includes (from left to right) Commissioners Gary Roark, William Sands, Larry Rhodes, Gerald Price and Judy Porter Poe.
The Ashe County Board of Commissioners voted and approved the 2013-2014 budget during a meeting Tuesday.
The budget was approved in a 3-2 vote, with commissioners Gary Roark and Gerald Price casting the dissenting votes, primarily because the board went into the county’s fund balance to pay for some of the budgeted services.
“It’s rough to work through this budget each year, especially as our revenue has decreased,” said Commissioner William Sands. “We did go into our fund balance, but I feel that we have an obligation to continue with the progress our county has made.”
“We’re a very progressive county, due to the efforts of many people,” said Sands. He listed improvements in the county court system and law enforcement.
“In the mean time, the cost to operate this county has gone up considerably,” said Sands. Employee insurance alone has increased overall costs by $200,000 since Sands joined the board.
“It takes money to keep that going,” said Sands.
Commissioner Judy Porter Poe agreed with Sands.
“We have expensive increasing and revenues are all decreasing, but we have to fund these services for our citizens,” said Poe. “I don’t like taking out of the fund balance, but someday we will have to increase the property tax; I realize that.”
However, dipping into the fund balance and increasing taxes in the future where two ideas opposed by Roark and Price.
After the meeting, Roark said the board place too much emphasis on spending in this budget, and moved through the process to quickly to consider cutting spending for any programs. This year’s budget was completed in 11 hours, a much shorter time frame than usual.
“They didn’t try to cut anything,” said Roark. “Dr. Mitchell (Pat Mitchell, Ashe County’s manager) advised against spending into the fund balance, and we did it anyway.”
Price voiced his primary concern during the meeting.
“I have a fear and foresee a very substantial tax increase for the people of Ashe County in the very near future, so we’ll let the record speak for itself,” said Price.
Even though Tuesday’s meeting was scheduled to be a public hearing, no member of the public stepped up to the podium during public comment to voice budgetary concerns.
The adopted budget maintained the ad valorem tax rate of $.40 cents per $100 of real property value.
The budget also set the following fire tax rates: Creston’s fire tax rate was set at .06 cents, Fleetwood’s fire tax rate at .04 cents, Glendale Springs’ fire tax rate at .03 cents, Lansing’s fire tax rate at .026 cents, Warrensville’s fire tax rate at .048 cents, Jefferson’s fire tax rate at .029 cents, New River’s fire tax rate at .04 cents, West Jefferson’s fire tax rate at .017 cents, Laural Springs’ fire tax rate at .04 cents, Pond Mountain’s fire tax rate at .08 cents, Todd’s fire tax rate at .07 cents, and Deep Gap’s fire tax rate at .04 cents.
Also, the board established solid waste disposal fees, which included household fees of $130, commercial fees of $62, industrial fees of $52, and land clearing inert debris fees of $42.
Once the budget was adopted, Board Chair Larry Rhodes thanked Mitchell and Sandra Long, the county’s finance officer for their work on this year’s budget.
“I would like to thank Dr. Mitchell and Sandy for all the hard work you did, which made our jobs easier,” said Rhodes.
• In a 5-0 vote, the Ashe County BOC approved the Home and Community Care Block Grant budget presented by Patricia Calloway and Mary Owen from Ashe Services for Aging.
• The board approved Long’s request for 2012-13 budget amendments in a 5-0 vote.
• In a 5-0 vote, Chris Robinson and Carolyn Shepherd were reappointed to the Economic Development Commission in the first presentation.
• The solid waste franchise renewal for the Garbage Disposal Service (GDS) was approved in a 5-0 vote.
• The board approved amendments to building inspection permit fees and to building inspection advisory board bylaws in a 5-0 vote.