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Franklin County to cut spending, proposes steady tax rate

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LOUISBURG — Franklin County officials say they will need to tighten the purse strings next fiscal year as COVID-19 brings uncertainty to government revenues. 

County Manager Angela Harris Monday recommended a $88.9 million budget, a decrease in spending from the current year.

“Due to the uncertainty of the fiscal climate we are currently in, funding is limited for expansion with regards to personnel and capital,” Harris told the county Board of Commissioners.

She added that she would like to revisit both of those in the future if the economic picture improves.

The recommended budget has no tax increase. The property tax rate would remain 80.5 cents per $100 in valuation. Each penny in the tax rate generates $602,684 for the county. 

The budget is balanced by pulling $4.5 million from the county’s savings — $162,000 more than it used last year. The county’s savings — its unassigned fund balance — will be 22% of its total spendings, still more than the county’s policy of keeping 18% in reserves. 

“It is my recommendation to move away from a significant fund balance appropriation in future budgets,” Harris said. “Future meetings should address how to accomplish this objective.”

The county’s tax base is $6.2 million, more than 5% larger than last year’s. But because of the pandemic, the county expects a lower collection rate, about 97.5%. 

The tax administrator established an assessed tax base at $6.18 billion, which is a 5.1% increase over the current year. The county is anticipating a 97.5% collection rate, which is a decrease from previous years, but it still expects to collect more in property taxes. 

 Sales tax revenue is expected to drop 5.6% to $9.9 million.

The recommended budget includes the “largest investment in current expense for education on record,” Harris said. She is recommending $21.2 million for education, including more than $3.7 million for charter schools. Vance-Granville Community College would maintain funding at $369,168.

Harris recommend adding four new positions. 

The county in July would hire a school resource officer that is no longer provided by Youngsville.

Also in July Harris proposed hiring a public health nurse to float through clinics, working primarily in the Communicable Disease Clinic. 

In January, the county would hire a new fire marshal and a second community paramedic. The community paramedic program currently has one staff member who served 41 new clients, fielded 289 calls and diverted 210 people from the emergency department in the 2019-20 fiscal year, Harris said. 

Harris recommended delaying a study that would evaluate the county’s pay scales until next fiscal year, but she did propose a 2% raise for all employees starting in January. 

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