Faced with a drop in sales tax revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Moore County Commissioners are considering a budget for next fiscal year that holds property tax rates steady with level funding for schools.
After hearing the recommended budget, the Moore County Board of Commissioners voted to hold a public hearing in June before adopting the budget that begins in July of this year.
Those were the top-level takeaways Tuesday from a virtual meeting of the Moore County Board of Commissioners, in what has now become common-place as a result of rules prohibiting large public gatherings.
County Manager Wayne Vest presented his recommended budget of $159 million from his office, as county commissioners, staff, school leaders and members of the public listened from their computers and mobile devices.
“As we went into the winter and moved to the spring, it became painfully aware that COVID-19 was going to have a tremendous impact on budgeted revenue, particularly those for sales tax,” said Vest. “The impacts that have been felt already, and are anticipated over the next fiscal year, have been incorporated into the budget.”
Projections are for a $3.2 million drop in local sales tax revenue in Moore County alone during the next year as a result of business closing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The recommended budget for FY 2020-21 sets money allocated for schools at $30.35 million, the same amount as included in the previous budget when one-time costs to open the McDeeds Elementary School are backed out. The school opened to students in September of 2019.
The budget presented Tuesday also includes $750,000 for school repairs and another $750,000 for the purchase of computers used by teachers and students. Those are the same amounts that have been allocated over the previous five years.
The Moore County Board of Education had previously voted on a budget of $36.05 million, a $3.46 million increase over the current year. The jump was needed to support proposed salary increases of 6% for school support staff and to hire additional teachers.
Under North Carolina statute, county commissioners have authority over the amount of funds allocated to public schools but not how the money is spent. “The schools have full discretion over how to divide that up among school activities, agencies and staffing,” Vest said.
A public hearing has been scheduled for June 16 to consider the FY 2020-21 budget. During the meeting, members of the public will be allowed to make comments before commissioners vote to adopt the budget.
Commissioners held open the possibility of holding a work session before the public hearing.
“I look forward to hearing from the public now as to their thoughts,” Commissioner Louis Gregory said, “if in fact, we need to add another work session to be able to hear from all of the public as to what they think needs to be done with their taxpayer money.”
A new budget must be in place before June 30.
~Written by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter John Patota.
Feature photo of Moore County Board of Commissioners via the county.