Commissioners continue to discuss county budget
by Allison Haver
County Board of Commissioners held their second county budget work session on
During the first
work session last Thursday, the board met with representatives from Watauga
Tuesday's meeting, County Manager Deron Geouque released the recommended county
budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year.
The proposed budget, which is more than $57 million, is a $3,350,155 or 5.55 percent decrease from the current fiscal-year budget.
Highlights of the proposed budget included no increase in the ad valorem property tax rate. The tax rate is currently 31.3 cents per $100 of valuation.
Commissioners discussed budgets for nonprofits within the
county on Tuesday.
Theatre was one of the first nonprofits to be discussed.
Earlier this month, Jonathan Allen with the Appalachian Theatre of the High Country Inc., presented information to the board about the theater and requested County support for the project.
Allen asked commissioners if they would approve the request to grant the project $250,000 over the next five years, coming to $50,000 a year.
"They talked about a business plan and we didn't see it and parking still has not been addressed," Commissioner Perry Yates said.
"I say we table
this until they can come back and show the business plan on how it's going to
run, where the money is coming and how they are going to address the parking,"
Nathan Miller said he did not see the theatre project succeeding.
rather give the money, if we had it, to the Economic Development Commission to
create more jobs as opposed to this theatre project," he said.
"The only theatre that is comparable, that we had in this community, failed," Miller said. "Now granted this one has more seats, but if you look at the one in Abingdon, Virginia, it receives millions in state funds."
agreed they would like to see a business plan for the project and would wait
until they reviewed a business plan before they committed to funding the
The board voted
three to two to not give money to Hospitality House. Commissioners John Welch
and Billy Kennedy voted to give Hospitality House "at least $5,000 to $10,000."
voted to give $8,500 to the Hunger Health Coalition. The nonprofit originally
asked for $16,000.
"I'm for giving them money but I don't see why Hospitality House doesn't get anything," Kennedy said.
The Children's Playhouse
asked the county for $2,500.
"This is an organization that asked for seed money and said they wouldn't come back again," Miller said. "I'm not saying it's a bad organization, none of them are bad organizations, but why should the county fund it?"
Commissioners voted three to two to not give money to the playhouse out of the county budget.
"There are all kinds of nonprofits that are not funded by the county that do good," Miller said.
Yates said that
although he fully supported giving to nonprofits he did not believe he should
dictate which organization county taxpayers money should go to.
"We are taking money that people have to pay and I don't think the five of us should board over it and say you have to give to this, this and this when it makes me uncomfortable," he said.
"You may have 80 percent of the people wanting to give to one and then the same 80 percent not wanting to give to the next," Yates said.
In regards to the Watauga County Schools budget, Welch said he would like to see a raise in local supplements for teachers to make the county a more attractive place for teachers to come and stay.
perform an important role, there's no doubt about it, but why are we spending
more money on teachers than our own county staff," Miller said.
"Commissioners need find a way to compensate
both teachers and county employees to keep people in the county," Welch said.
"We know that the county employees are doing more with less people than they have done in years and they are doing an incredible job and the same with teachers," he said.
also voted to cut $50,000 out of the schools current operating
costs, which are recommended at $12,062,834.
County commissioners wanted to have an eight-week Department
of Social Services certified summer camp for underprivileged children in the county.
Commissioners, the county school system only approved six weeks as opposed to
the requested eight weeks for the camp.
Miller said the
camp would be open to everybody and those who do not qualify would have to pay
a fee to participate in the camp.
"I would like to send them a message about them working
together with us on letting us utilize the school," Miller said. "We get no
benefit and that camp costs us more than we make and we put it off on the
citizens, he said."
"We can't build our own building to just utilize a summer camp when they have an empty building sitting there," Miller said.
"I don't want to
cut anything but I think the kids need someone to stand up for them," Yates
"I don't really want to do it, but the budget isn't final," Miller said. "If they come back and change their minds I would break even," he said.
"I don't think it's an effective way to get the schools to change their minds," Kennedy said. "I don't think cutting $50,000 is going to change their mind."
Yates said that
commissioners needed to send a message that those schools are county property
and that they need to be used by all citizens within the county.
directed Geouque to call interim WCS superintendent David Fonseca and Miller
said he would call county board of education Chairman Dr. Lee Warren to inform
them of the commissioners' decision.
A public hearing on the budget will be heard in May and the commissioners will vote on and adopt the budget in June.