Albemarle Commission board rejects budget
By Peter Williams
The Perquimans Weekly
Saturday, June 23, 2018
HERTFORD — The Albemarle Commission Board of Commissioners has rejected the 10-county agency’s proposed $6.8 million budget for next year, citing concerns about proposals to add a new economic developer position and lease property in Elizabeth City for the agency’s new headquarters.
The board voted 9-2 on Thursday to reject the agency’s proposed budget, with board Chairwoman Marion Gilbert of Currituck County and Earl Pugh of Hyde County casting the lone votes against the motion.
The board then voted unanimously to adopt a continuing resolution to keep the agency operating after July 1, when its new fiscal year is scheduled to begin. Under a continuing resolution, the agency can continue current spending but cannot add new staff or programs. The agency also cannot spend money to move from its current headquarters on Church Street in Hertford.
Started 48 years ago, the Albemarle Commission is a publicly funded agency that provides planning and economic development services in a 10-county region that includes Pasquotank, Perquimans, Chowan, Camden and Currituck. The commission also administers job training and senior nutrition programs in those counties.
The proposed budget the commission’s board rejected Thursday was for $6.8 million, or about $400,000 more than the current year’s budget.
Included in the proposed spending plan was $149,000 to lease a building in Elizabeth City to serve as the commission’s new headquarters. That’s $104,000 more than the commission now pays Perquimans County to rent space in the county-owned building on Church Street.
Commission Director Cathy Davison floated a plan last year to build a new headquarters for the agency in Hertford, saying the commission has outgrown its current facility. Davison said the commission is having to rent space in other facilities that now costs the agency about $17,000 every three months.
However, because all 10 counties the commission serves would be required to shoulder a share of the debt for the building, the plan was scrapped when Pasquotank County — the largest by population — said it wasn’t interested in funding a new building for the agency.
The commission board then asked Davison to begin looking for space the agency could lease. Davison presented that leasing plan to the board on Thursday. It calls for the commission to pay an estimated $149,000 annually to lease space in Elizabeth City.
Pasquotank Commissioner Lloyd Griffin said Thursday he and other board members had concerns about terms of the lease deal. He said the commission shouldn’t proceed with the lease for now.
Griffin also said he wasn’t convinced the commission needs an economic development position, noting that when Davison was hired in 2014, she was supposed to fill that role. The proposed budget for 2018-19 the board rejected included between $38,000 and $52,000 for an economic developer position.
The Albemarle Commission gets a portion of its funding from the 10 counties, but the bulk of its money comes from the federal government either directly or as a pass-through from the state.
When Davison arrived at the commission in September 2014, the agency had about $1 million in fund balance in its general fund and $300,000 in reserve for its aging and senior nutrition program. Now the general fund balance is about $1.3 million and there is $800,000 in the reserve fund for other programs.
The Albemarle Commission board isn’t scheduled to meet again until July 19.