Dear Board Members:
The proposed budget for the County's General Fund for fiscal year 2003-2004 is presented to you at $116.7 million with a tax rate of 80 cents, which represents a 5-cent decrease in the previous tax rate. This proposed budget is approximately 7.8% above last year's adopted budget of $108.2 million; however, it is only a 2.8% increase over the adjusted budget for fiscal year 2002-03. The adjusted budget reflects changes in the budget throughout the fiscal year involving new expenditures, new revenue and encumbered funds.
This proposed budget does not include any appropriation from the General fund reserves. Maintaining a fund balance in the 18-20% range of total expenditures is critical to our maintaining fiscal soundness and strong bond ratings. Our recently elevated bond rating saves all our taxpayers a considerable amount of interest costs on the County's debt.
Highlights of the proposed budget include:
- Continuation of formula for local school current expense (at an inflation rate of 2.5%) as well as continuation of the teacher supplement funding.
- Increased local current expense funding for Johnston Community College.
- Appropriation of $5.2 million for Johnston County's medicaid match.
- Recommendation of positions for the following agencies in the appropriate funds:
- 1 position in Register of Deeds Office
- 4 deputy positions in Sheriff's Office
Johnston County's Water, Wastewater, Stormwater and Solid Waste programs are self-supporting with no general tax dollar support. Positions recommended in these areas include:
- 1 position in Utilities Finance
- 3 positions in Water and/or Wastewater
- 2 positions to support proposed Sedimentation and Erosion Control
- 1 position in Solid Waste
There were 36 (thirty-six) full-time positions requested; however at this time, my recommendation is for 12 (twelve.)
PROPOSED PUBLIC UTILITY FEE ADJUSTMENTS
Recommendation of fee increases in Public Utilities, which include:
- Increase in capital commodity surcharge for water supply of 0.05 per 1,000 gallons to pay debt service on water treatment plant expansion and increase in commodity charge for water supply of $0.05 per 1,000 gallons to pay for increase in operations costs.
- Increase in the wastewater capacity capital commodity surcharge of $0.07 per 1000 gallons to pay for debt service on facilities expansions and improvements, and increase in the wastewater commodity surcharge of $0.13 per 1,000 gallons for additional operational and maintenance costs for nitrogen removal in the wastewater treatment plant and operation of the reclaimed water program.
- Increases in the respective base monthly wastewater charges for Smithfield, Selma, Pine Level, and Four Oaks to pay debt service on transmission facilities improvements.
- Water meter fees increased from $95 to $170 to cover costs of automatic read Meters
Recommendation of certain water fee reductions and change in developer reimbursement policy in Public Utilities:
- Reduction in water assessment fees from $650 to $500 per residential tap and elimination of the developer reimbursement payment of $350 per residential services. The water supply program in Johnston County has matured to a point that the reimbursement is not essential.
Recommendation for amendment of wastewater capacity reservation and assessment fee policies:
- Under current policy, wastewater capacity allocations are reserved for residential, commercial, institutional, and industrial development upon submittal of project plans and specifications, and a DWQ non-discharge permit application. Allocations are reserved for one year (and renewed for one year with written justification) and automatically expire after the reservation period if project construction has not begun.
- Under current policy, wastewater assessment fees are due and payable at, or prior to the application for building construction permit(s). Wastewater capacity allocations are non-expiring if assessment fees are paid in advance.
- A policy change is recommended as follows: Wastewater capacity allocations requested after July 1, 2003 may be reserved and will be guaranteed upon payment of assessment fees. Assessment fees must be paid on, or before the recording of the final plat.
Recommendation of new program and fee schedule in Public Utilities:
- Sedimentation and Erosion Control program with fees at $200 per disturbed acre. With this program, it will be necessary to charge fees to make the program entirely self-supporting. Please note that one and one-half new positions are requested to serve in this capacity.
*Funding is included for a 2.5% pay adjustment for county employees. Funding is not included for performance pay at this time; however, I would ask the board to consider reinstating the program during the upcoming fiscal year.
I look forward to working with you during the upcoming budget process.
Rick J. Hester