Ritter won't run for reelection

The Moore County Board of Commissioners met Tuesday to act on the fiscal year 19-20 budget. The budget contains the first tax increase in Moore County property taxes in recent memory.

County Manager Wayne Vest described the budget “as a lot about seeing vision and focus, the budget has been years in the making. This budget is a bulls-eye strike.”

The budget calls for an increase to 51 cents per $100 of valuation. This amounts to a 4.5 cent increase; however, the recent revaluation, which increased property values, means that many residents will see a higher actual increase.

According to Vest, the budget is balanced as mandated by North Carolina Statue. It provides funding to cover debt service on the new schools as well as other needs including a court-mandated new courthouse, increased funding for the Moore County Sheriff’s Department, and to cover the additional expense in operational expenses.

Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields addressed the board during a public hearing conducted prior to board action. “Moore County has been understaffed for several years.” He added that the Sheriff’s Department answered over 21,000 requests for service, plus a significant number of other duties including business checks and prisoner transportation. Discussing the detention center which has also been understaffed, “One of my constant worries (concerning the detention center) is that an employee will be injured because of inadequate staff.”

Responding to Sheriff Fields, Commissioner Chairman Frank Quis stated “Public Safety is a high priority.” The budget provides for additional personnel as well as the purchase of a new ambulance. Thirteen percent of the general fund is dedicated to public safety.

The commissioners voted 5-0 to adopt the budget as proposed, despite nearly 20 people speaking against the budget at the public hearing. In addition to several citizens speaking in favor of increased educational funding, many were upset at the short notice of, and time-span between the public hearing and the board taking action. One citizen stated “It was sprung on us.”

Addressing those concerns, Quis stated “The process could have been better, and we sill strive to do better in the future.” He also noted that by North Carolina Statute, the budget has to be passed by the end of June.

Forty-nine percent of the general fund is dedicated to education funding. Manager Vest pointed out to the audience that “The school board determines how local funds are spent; the county does not fund specific programs, they allocate revenue.”

Speaking after the vote, Commissioner Vice Chair Catherine Graham stated “I don’t like paying taxes, but I do enjoy having good law enforcement.”

The budget makes no change to the Advanced Life Support Tax (4 cents per $100), and the countywide fire service tax is also unchanged. The fire service tax is only charged to property owners who live in the unincorporated areas of the county.

Chairman Quis defended the budget as being fiscally responsible. “Not a lot of dollars spent frivolously in Carthage,” he stated.

According to Vest, the budget and revaluation should preclude the need for any additional tax increases for the four years until the next revaluation.

Feature photo of Moore County Board of Commissioners via Moore County.

~Written by Sandhills Sentinel Local News/Government Reporter Chris Prentice.           Sandhills_Sentinel
   Contact him at [email protected] or (910) 639-9303.

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