Brunswick County will keep its tax rate at 48.5-cents per $100 of property valuation rather than lower it to a revenue neutral rate of 45.05-cents, which is possible based on an increased tax base from the 2019 revaluation.
Instead, the extra revenue will help the county increase funding for public safety, storm resiliency, employee retention and also pay for the $152-million school bond projects approved by voters in 2017.
County manager Ann Hardy, who has announced she plans to retire in November, presented her final budget to commissioners last week. It totals $263.2-million in all funds, which represents an 8.5% increase over the current fiscal year. It is balanced using $4.16-million from fund balance and includes $1.39-million held in escrow for Holden Beach for sand renourishment projects and non-recurring capital appropriation projects totaling $3.56-million.
“Department heads submitted conservative and thoughtful budget requests that reflect the service priorities of the board of commissioners and the citizens of Brunswick County,” said Hardy. “In summary, the over-arching focus of the recommended budget is meeting the needs of a growing county.”
Brunswick County is ranked ninth in growth overall nationally and fourth among counties with a population of greater than 20,000. Its current population is 138,829, up from 107,431.
Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget Monday, June 17, at 6 p.m. in their chambers at the David Sandifer Administration Building at the county government center near Bolivia. They plan to formally adopt the budget following that hearing and even canceled a workshop scheduled for next week.
Brunswick County Schools will receive $43.7-million, which represents an increase of 7.3%, or $2,982,592 over the current fiscal year. The amount includes $42.8-million for current expense and $898,744 for category 2 and 3 outlay (furniture, equipment, vehicles).
Total general obligation debt service for the schools in 2019-20 is $10.8-million. An additional $3.16-million of limited obligation debt is funded through sales tax and lottery proceeds for projects at Town Creek Elementary, Cedar Grove Middle, North Brunswick High and Waccamaw.
Brunswick Community College will receive $4.19-million for operating and capital needs. The Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office began providing campus police in 2019 eliminating that allocation for the BCC budget.
Total obligation debt service for BCC in this budget is $2.68-million. The new Allied Health Building construction is underway and will involve $2.85-million in county and college funds. Also included is $336,000 in county funds for foundation grants, up from $216,000 currently, to help pay tuition and fees for qualified county high school graduates.
The proposed budget includes a pay scale adjustment of 2% for employees, which will cost the county $1,364,763, and funding for 2.5% in merit raises for another $1,705,954.
The county will continue with its Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance coverage for employees with no increase in premiums. The county contributes $8,352 per employee for their health and dental benefits.
Nineteen new county staff positions have been added and one position deleted in the proposed budget. Eight of the new positions are for paramedics, mainly to cover the county’s takeover of the Town of Leland rescue services.
Other added positions include one delinquent tax specialist for tax administration, manager in fleet services, nonprofit coordinator for emergency services, commercial plans examiner for the building inspections and central permitting, fire plan examiner and inspector for fire inspections, 911 trainer in central communications, landfill equipment operator, project planner in planning, environmental health specialist and social worker III.
Nine new positions are included for the enterprise operations, covered financially by water and sewer budgets.
The list of capital improvement projects for 2019-20 total $15.6-million, including some pay-as-you-go funds, and includes:
• design transfer station at landfill, $731,651.
• Brunswick Waterway Park at Holden Beach, $479,500.
• Waccamaw multi-use facility building, $3.5-million.
• courthouse renoviations, $10.9-million.
Capital outlay expenditures
The budget includes $7.42-million dedicated to capital outlay and major operating expenditures, an increase of $2.6-million from the current budget.
Significant items include:
• Main fuel site/generator upgrade, $250,000.
• Leland fuel site upgrade for fleet services, $115,000.
• dozer for operation services, $200,000.
• rubber tire backhoe for operation services, $109,000.
• 20 body cameras/in-car bundles, $150,000.
• one additional, 19 replacement patrol cars, $595,506.
• eight county replacement vehicles, $232,000.
• critical incident vehicle for sheriff, $329,000.
• N.C. Sound Camera project for jail, $144,754.
• generator for North Brunswick High, $900,000.
• generator transfer switch for emergency services, $100,000.
• five new ambulances with power lifts, $966,805.
• ambulance remount, $117,000.
• five replacement vehicles, $260,406.
• 25 portable radios for EMS, $172,125.
• trash compactor for solid waste, $607,000.
Water, sewer rates
No increase is being recommended in the retail water base service charges based on meter size with the standard residential 3/4-inch meter at $12 per month. A retail usage rate change of $2.85 per 1,000 gallons for the first 5,000 gallons, $3.30 for the next 15,000 gallons and $3.85 for gallons over 20,000 is recommended to encourage conservation. This is a change from $3.05 for the first 6,000 gallons, $3.10 for the next 14,000 gallons and $3.15 for gallons over 20,000.
Similar tier updates is recommended for residential and commercial irrigation rates.
There is no increase in the current sewer retail rate structure that is projected to generate $11.6-million, or $1.8-million more than the $9.8-million projected in the current budget.