6/16/12 Honeycutt to present budget tweaks

Honeycutt to present budget tweaks
By Chris Lavender The Times-News 6/16/12     
Reprinted with permission.

   GRAHAM — County Manager Craig Honeycutt will present a revised budget to the Alamance County Board of Commissioners Monday that calls for no property tax increase and a 7 percent cut in local funding for outside agencies, including the Alamance-Burlington School System.

   The new budget, drawn by Honeycutt at the request of commissioners, also eliminates a pay raise for county employees.

   Honeycutt’s first proposal June 4 included a 2.5 cent property tax rate increase. It would have added $2.9 million in revenues for 2012-13.

   Honeycutt said he will propose Monday that outside agencies receive a 7 percent cut in local funding instead of the 10 percent figure discussed earlier this month when commissioners told Honeycutt to go back and cut the budget further. The initial budget proposal called for a 6 percent cut to schools and other agencies.

   Honeycutt also said Friday that he will recommend that commissioners adopt a budget that includes a 2 percent funding cut for county departments, no furlough days, and no cuts in longevity pay.

   But a planned 2 percent pay increase for county employees will not be part of the revised budget for 2012-13, Honeycutt said. The 2 percent pay increase would have cost the county $800,000 annually.

   The proposed budget also cuts all requested capital expenditures including a $550,000 request from the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office to purchase new vehicles. Capital improvement requests from the Alamance County Recreation and Parks were also eliminated.

   Honeycutt said his new recommendation has decreased the general fund expenditures from $125 million to $122 million for fiscal 2012-13. There are also no fund balance expenditures in the proposed budget and the county’s contingency fund was cut by $386,000.

   An additional $168,000 was identified that would be available from the state to help fund the Alamance County Department of Social Services. Honeycutt said the county also plans to freeze seven county jobs and eliminate two positions, saving the county an additional $280,000 next fiscal year.

   Honeycutt said he will not fill the assistant county manager position now held by Tim Burgess, who will move to a similar job in New Hanover County afterJune30.The county will save $50,000 as a result and cover the position’s duties through internal reorganization.

   Honeycutt also addressed ABSS’s recent claims about what cuts in local funding would mean for the school system. ABSS’s total funding request from local, state, and federal funding sources for 2012-13 was for $171 million.

   According to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, ABSS’s request for state funding was for $109,181,558 in 2012-13. The state House proposed budget would provide $115,709,070 and the state Senate proposed budget would provide $113,090,415 to ABSS for fiscal 2012-13, based on June 13 figures from DPI.

   “The school system is going to come out much better and get as much or more in funding,” Honeycutt said.    Honeycutt said while ABSS would likely see a decrease in local funding, the school system’s state funding would more than offset its loss in local revenue. Honeycutt asked why ABSS didn’t mention in its recent robo-calls that the school system would likely get about $5 million more in state funding for 2012-13 than it has requested.

   “They have solely focused on cuts they would receive from the county,” Honeycutt said.

   Honeycutt said he believed that ABSS would meet its $171 million funding target for 2012-13 despite a 7 percent cut in local funding. ABSS had requested the county provide it with $34,520,907 for 2012-13.

   Honeycutt said ABSS also has more flexibility in how it spends than the county does because it has a $21 million fund balance.

   Honeycutt said that ABSS also needed to develop a fund balance policy. A joint meeting was held between the commissioners and school board in December. A part of the meeting’s discussion was the need for the school system to develop a fund balance policy that would benefit both parties.