6/24/12 The Final Cut

THE FINAL CUT
County budget trims outside agencies like ABSS by 7 percent
By Chris Lavender The Times-News 6/24/12     
Reprinted with permission.

   GRAHAM — County Manager Craig Honeycutt’s final 2012-13 budget plan included $2.8 million in cuts from a plan that he had previously recommended on June 4.

   The $122 million budget approved Monday by the commissioners included a funding cut for county departments at 2 percent and a funding cut for outside agencies — including the Alamance-Burlington School System —at 7 percent. During the past two budget cycles, ABSS has seen its local funding cut by 12 percent.

   County Finance Director Amy Weaver said last week that county departments’ funding has been cut 10 percent over the past few budget years.

   The 2012-13 budget includes additional funding for the Alamance County Transit Authority compared to the current fiscal year. ACTA faced a budget deficit of $83,000 for 2011-12 after state funding fell short, followed by an increase in gas prices. ACTA officials believe the projected deficit will be narrowed by June 30 and with additional state and county funds made available in 2012-13 some services will be restored.

   The county budget includes no use of the county’s fund balance. Commissioner Tim Sutton said during a meeting last week that the county could not use a dime of its fund balance in 2012-13 to offset expenses. Honeycutt said current projections show that the county’s fund balance will be at 9.2 percent of total county expenditures by June 30. The state mandates counties’ fund balances be at 8 percent of total expenditures.    Honeycutt’s first budget proposal on June 4 included a 2.5-cent property tax rate increase. It would have added $2.9 million in revenue for 2012-13. The county’s property tax rate will remain at 52 cents per $100 of assessed value.

   The commissioners decided to approve a 7 percent cut in local funding for outside agencies instead of the 10 percent cut 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 said last week that a county budget ordinance doesn’t allow the county to absorb any reduction in state and federal funds and that any decrease should be absorbed in the budget of the agency by increasing other revenue sources, reducing personnel, or reducing departmental expenditures to stay within the county appropriation.

   The Alamance-Burlington School System saw its local funding cut from $33,500,000 in 2011-2012 to $31,155,000 in the new budget.

   All proposed capital expenditures were cut from the budget including $200,000 for the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office and $60,000 from Alamance County Recreation and Parks. A proposed 2-percent pay raise for county employees was also eliminated.

   Total local funding for county departments in 2012-13 is for $52 million, while outside agencies is $35 million and restricted county departments is for $34 million. Outside agencies include the Alamance Rescue Squad, Alamance County Area Chamber of Commerce, Airport Authority, Alamance Community College and Piedmont Behavioral Health. The county’s restricted departments include ACTA, Office of Juvenile Justice, Tourism Development Authority, Animal Shelter, Central Garage and County Department of Social Services state and federal grant programs.

   Honeycutt said Thursday that restricted county departments use funds that can’t be reduced and also use funds that are pass-through dollars for agencies.

   According to Weaver, restricted county departments have guidelines on how money can be spent.

   “They are either funded by grants or we have contract obligations,” Weaver said. “The money for these departments cannot be moved or used for other line items in the county’s budget.”