Flat is budget reality for coming year
Flat is a common theme of the 2014-15 proposed county budget — no change in the tax rate, little change in department funding and slight funding increases for education.
While the public schools and community college had requested nearly $1.6 million more than the county provided last year, the budget prepared by County Manager Ira Dove and County Finance Officer Julie Davis provides only a modest increase.
The Haywood County Schools proposed budget follows a long-time funding formula based on a variety of factors. The recommended funding level represents a 2.33-percent increase over last year’s budget.
Haywood Community College would receive a 1.94-percent increase over last year.
Funding for general government and health and human services is decreased slightly, the later due to a recent departmental merger of the two human service agencies that receive the largest chunk of the budget — nearly 25 percent.
Education is second at 21.8 percent followed by 19.6 percent for public safety.
While Sheriff Greg Christopher requested about $1 million more that last year, largely to address the aging vehicle fleet, the overall budget increase was 1.3-percent in the proposed document.
One of the recommendations funded was shifting from a lot of part-time and temporary labor at the detention center to hiring four permanent detention center officers.
Christopher explained that an extra $100,000 added to his budget Monday was to cover medical costs for inmates, all of whom had to spend time in the hospital and had to have an officer by their side during the time they were there.
“We bring in very few marathon runners,” Christopher said of the jail population. “Most are pretty unhealthy. We’ve had as many as five people admitted to the Haywood hospital and two at Mission at the same time, and had to pay not only cost but had to send someone off duty with them and pay that detention officer to sit there.”
A major change in the proposed budget is to act upon the recommendation of the county’s solid waste committee and explore options for privatizing additional solid waste services, including management of the Materials Recovery Facility in Clyde.
At present, Santek manages the landfill, and Consolidates Waste Services operate the 10 convenience centers.
The move is not expected to provide significant savings, as occurred with the other management agreements, but it is expected to increase recycling, Dove explained. An added benefit will be avoiding the cost of replacing an aging fleet of trucks and trailers.
Whatever solution is found will need to ensure the budget level for solid waste does not increase. The budget recommends the household solid waste fee remain at $92 a year.
The commissioners asked few budget-related questions when it was presented Monday evening at the scheduled board meeting. At two budget work sessions held earlier in the year, the board set forth directives on how staff should proceed.
They showed support for the continued move toward privatizing solid waste and the school funding formula.
“We have a former school superintendent (Bill Upton) and a former school board chairman (Mark Swanger) on our board now who helped craft the funding formula,” Commissioner Kevin Ensley said.
Upon questioning, Davis said the formula had provided for budget increases to the school system every year except one when the economy crashed in 2008-09.
Swanger, who now is the county commission chairman, asked the board if it had any objection with pursuing other options to partner with private companies to handle solid waste, and there were none.
“Cost avoidance would be the largest reason for this,” he said. “If people truly recycle, 70 to 880 percent of trash can be recycled. If everybody did that, it would produce American jobs. We need to make it easier to recycle.”
There will be a public hearing on the budget at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, May 22 in the Historic Courtroom of the Haywood County Courthouse, 215 N. Main Street in Waynesville.
Fast facts found in the county budget
Number of county employees in 2009 — 557
Number of county employees now 505
Food assistance case workload in 2009 324
Food assistance case workload now 461
Median age for Haywood in 2000 42.3
Median age for Haywood in 2013 46.5
Projected median age by 2018 48
Unemployment rate in 2010 12.1 percent
Present unemployment rate 5.9 percent
Building permits in 2012 377
Building permits in 2013 453