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Camden budget holds expense; tax rate remains

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Sunday, May 26, 2019

CAMDEN — Work on the 2019-2020 Camden County budget is drawing to a close with the current property tax rate intact, addition of a $75 per house solid waste fee and less draw on reserve funds to balance the budget.

The tax rate is slated to remain at 75 cents per $100 property valuation.

The public hearing on the recommended budget is June 3 at 7 p.m.

In a budget message presented to the Camden County Board of Commissioners at its budget work session Thursday, County Manager Ken Bowman explained the county’s position on trying to keep appropriations from fund balance to a minimum.

“Using funds from our unallocated General Fund Reserve to balance the budget is a practice that the county has tried to avoid in the past but has had to rely on in recent years,” Bowman said in the May 23 budget message. “Paying for current operating expenses from a savings account meant for emergencies and strategic capital expenditures is not a good financial practice, and I would highly recommend against it.”

The earliest version of the 2019-2020 budget proposal that the county commissioners looked at would have required dipping into the county’s General Fund reserves to the tune of $909,021, but that figure has been trimmed to $353,696.

Bowman said the only ways to eliminate the appropriation from the fund balance altogether would be to raise the tax rate by 3.5 cents, cut staff, remove the 2 percent cost-of-living increase for employees, or put off the purchase of vehicles and equipment that are needed.

County officials have already cut a number of vehicle and equipment requests from this year’s budget.

Taking all that into consideration the county commissioners have agreed to use $353,696 from fund balance to balance the 2019-2020 budget.

Local operational funding for the Camden County Schools is remaining at $2.6 million for the third consecutive fiscal year. Capital outlay funding for the schools, which is used for major repairs and renovations to facilities, is increasing to $405,000 from the $295,000 in the current year’s budget but is still less than the $536,000 the school board requested.

The cost of providing health insurance for employees is increasing 10 percent in next year’s budget.

The $75 solid waste fee is expected to raise about $307,000 to help offset current solid waste expenses, leaving about $400,000 in solid waste costs that will continue to be paid for out of the county’s General Fund.

There are no increases in the water and sewer rates in next year’s budget.

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