County to holdpublic hear onbudget Monday

Kellie Blue

LUMBERTON — Robeson County’s proposed $1.49 million budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year is bare-boned would meet the county’s needs and keep the property tax rate at its current rate, according to Kellie Blue, Robeson County’s finance director.

Blue said that in addition to holding the property tax rate at 77 cents for each $100 of property, the proposed budget includes no new positions or a cost-of-living increase for county employees. County employees, however, including the county commissioners, would see salary increases if the commissioners approve the second phase of a pay and classification system that aims to bring pay and job responsibilities in line with other counties and the overall government market.

A public hearing on the budget will be held Monday at 6 p.m. during the regular meeting of the Board of Commissioners. It’s possible the board could go ahead and adopt the budget.

The first phase of the pay plan was implemented during the current fiscal year, and resulted in the county’s 1,100-member workforce receiving an overall average salary increase of 5 percent. The same overall average increase for county employees can be expected during the fiscal year that begins July 1 if the commissioners implement the second phase.

The commissioners would see their annual salary of $15,237 jump to $15,998, according to figures provided this month by Assistant County Manager Jason King. Noah Woods, chairman of the board, would see his salary of $18,798 increase to $19,737.

The total cost to taxpayers would be about $6,300.

Blue said the commissioners could opt to pass the plan with a smaller increase for themselves, or opt not to take any pay increase for themselves.

“The 5 percent is Ricky’s proposal,” Blue said. “The commissioners did not even know about the proposal until they first saw the proposed budget.”

The proposal includes no new major capital projects except for the start up of a $1.2 million to $1.5 million osmosis leachate treatment system to be installed at the county ’s landfill in St. Pauls. During the next year there are plans for the addition of waterlines and water tanks to serve Mountaire Farms in Lumber Bridge and Campbell Soup in Maxton; a second generator to be located at the county landfill; opening of a payment center for water customers at a one-stop center on Caton Road; introduction of an on-line system for payment of water bills; and the implementation of a GPS tracking system for all ambulances.

Most “special appropriations” are recommended to remain the same as the current year, with only slight increases made to some, including the Robeson County Humane Society, Fairmont Farmers Festival, and the Folks Arts Festival held each year in St. Pauls.

The commissioners have held one short budget work session, during which they asked few questions about the financial plan. According to Blue, the commissioners could choose to adopt the budget Monday after the hearing. They could also decide to hold another work session to continue their review and make changes.

Among other business, the commissioners on Monday will:

— Hold public hearings on a proposed county firearm’s ordinance and appointments to the Pembroke Planning Board.

— Approve distribution of community development funds, better known as discretionary money.

— Consider appointments to the board of the Robeson County Public Library.

— Consider a resolution supporting Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed $2.85 billion bond referendum for infrastructure investment to support transportation, public health, education, technology, parks, ports and military operations. The proposal includes $10 million for West Hall improvements at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, as well as dedicated funds for improving Lumber River State Park and Interstate 95 in Robeson County.