County leaders discuss needs for new budget
During an afternoon board retreat Tuesday, the Haywood County Board of Commissioners discussed their priorities for the upcoming budget year. Topping that list were keeping the tax rate static, making the county more efficient and economic development.
County Manager Marty Stamey joked that past budget year themes have been “doing more with less” and “rising to the challenge,” and the theme of the next year seems to be more of the same.
Among the many goals for the rest of the year are to maintain the current tax rate of 54.13 cents and the solid waste household fee of $92 annually.
One topic that dominated a large portion of the meeting was the consideration of consolidating the Department of Social Services and the Health Department in an effort to increase efficiency.
A task force headed by Ira Dove, director of DSS, and Carmine Rocco, director of county health services, did an extensive months-long study and took a look at other counties that have adopted the same system.
"We decided that the county could benefit from integration in multiple ways. The focus, though, of that would be on the client needs and the coordination of client services," Dove said.
Doing so could make a trip to the department quicker for clients and could provide a "more holistic" approach to client relations, he said.
The departments have already made a crucial step toward making integration possible by moving into the same building.
“Literally not a day goes by that I'm not thankful that we’re not walking into the facilities that we used to have," Dove said.
But much more planning will be required to make consolidation work. Rocco said getting a finalized plan will take more time.
“I think we have good direction and we want to provide to you our best plan on how to get there with the least disruptions and the least surprises so that we make it there within budget and in time,” Rocco said.
Commissioner Chairman Mark Swanger asked that the task force come back to the board within a few months with a followup report and a timeline for the project.
Swanger pointed out that spending more time working out a plan for consolidation will not hinder current services.
“It’s not broke now — we’re just looking for a way to make it better,” he said.
On the subject of economic development, the board discussed continuing to help Canton fund sewer and development efforts on Champion Drive. They also agreed they would like to maintain the same level of funding for the school system and Haywood Community College.
Decreasing roadside trash and increasing recycling in the county was another topic of interest. Part of that effort will be evaluating an improved option for recycling cardboard and paper at convenience centers.
County Solid Waste Director Stephen King suggested new containers, which would allow people to walk up to the facility and place recyclables in designated slots rather than having to walk into a trailer.
Encouraging recycling efforts can only help the county, Stamey said.
"We need people to recycle — It’s a revenue stream," he said.
Stamey brought up the need for a new employee in the IT department, which could cost about $30,000. In the current budget, the board has maintained all county positions without hiring or firing.
They mentioned monitoring benefits and compensation of employees after adding 401 Ks at 1 percent last year.
Another main priority commissioners would like to focus on is marketing and selling county-owned buildings, particularly the building first used as the county hospital and the complex on South Main Street in Waynesville known as Annex II. They also hope to finish renovations on the old Bargains building.
The board will begin meeting with department heads from March 11 through March 21 and another county workshop will follow. They will likely draft the budget in May.