Polk approves budget with ¼ cent tax cut

Published 9:46 pm Sunday, June 23, 2013

Board gives FHS $6k for spay/neuter program

Polk County has a new budget that includes a ¼ cent tax rate decrease and $6,000 more to the Foothills Humane Society (FHS).

Commissioners met June 17 and approved the new budget by a 4-1 vote. Commissioner Ray Gasperson voted against the budget after not receiving a second to his amended motion, which proposed to begin employee raises on July 1 instead of Jan. 1, to fund a child protective services social worker for the department of social services (DSS), to fund FHS’s quest and to fund Isothermal Community College Polk Campus’ request.

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Gasperson suggested the county pay for the requests by not including the tax decrease in the budget ($68,000), to not include a 2014 Ford Explorer for the interim county manager ($25,595) and to take $35,525 from the manager’s discretion fund. Gasperson’s motion died.

Commissioner Tom Pack amended the original motion to approve the budget as recomended to partially fund FHS’s requested increase. FHS had asked for $14,580 more next year because of increased costs to care for animals. Pack suggested FHS join the Spay Neuter Program through the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which provides partial reimbursement to shelters for spaying and neutering animals.

In return, Pack suggested, and the majority approved, FHS giving the first $6,000 in reimbursements back to the county and FHS keeping anything further the shelter may receive. The additional funding will be taken from the manager’s discretion fund.

“Obviously our preference would have been that the county provide the contractual funding for the county’s stray intakes in accordance with their statutory obligation for animal control, rather than send us to request money from the state program for spayneuters,” said FHS executive director Selena Coffey. “To be clear, the state money is for spay-neuter assistance only, which is unrelated to stray intakes. Further, there is no guarantee if or how much state money will be available.”

Coffey told commissioners on June 17 the program gives the first 50 percent of money to tier 1 counties and Polk is a tier 2 county. Last year, Coffey said, Henderson County (with a population of approximately 100,000), was reimbursed for approximately 400 procedures, or about $20,000.

To enter the program, FHS will revise its procedures and policies and add additional paperwork, according to Coffey. For residents who request spay-neuters from FHS, the program will require the residents to provide proof of income. The agreement between FHS and the county will require a new contract.

Commissioners also agreed to meet with DSS over three sessions (two commissioners at a time) to review the need for a child protective social worker to possibly be considered later in the year. The approved budget is for $25,754,086 with a tax rate of 51.75 cents per $100 of valuation. The tax decrease will equate to an approximate $2.50 decrease for a property valued at $100,000.

Capital expenditures included in next year’s budget to be paid for out of fund balance include four new vehicles for the sheriff’s office and other equipment at $179,500, a new ambulance at $139,510, new vans for transportation with Polk’s portion being $12,592, two Ford Explorer; one for building inspections and one for the interim county manager at $51,190; a new server at $35,000, ten computers, printers and scanners for DSS at $7,050 for the county’s portion; cooking equipment for the jail at $5,000; a mower and spreader for maintenance at $2,700; replacement equipment for animal control at $2,000; a computer for the finance department at $1,000 and additional lighting for the district attorney’s office in the courthouse at $1,000 for a total of $436,542.

Employees will also increase next year with a new shift sergeant, an inmate transport officer and a jail administrator added to the sheriff’s office and jail and the creation of an emergency management director/fire marshal position. The county is also making some part-time positions full time and making some part time temporary positions part-time permanent as well as adjusting two DSS positions for slightly higher salaries.

The across the board salary increases will include a 2.5 percent increase to be effective Jan. 1, 2014 at a total cost of $88,044. The new budget also includes tax increases for the Saluda and Mill Spring Fire Departments. Saluda’s increase is one cent while Mill Spring’s is 1.5 cents. Polk County’s new budget year begins July 1.