No tax increase in Carroll's budget

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Carroll County supervisors approved the school budget and will advertise a county budget with no tax increase.

Without much discussion in a special meeting last Monday — having previously heard separate presentations on the schools and the county numbers for fiscal year 2011 — the board of supervisors approved motions needed to solidify the Carroll schools budget.

Schools Finance Manager Tammy Quesenberry was on hand to remind the board about the budget numbers: about $39.7 million for operations, $467,420 for the textbook fund and about $2.24 million for food service.

The budget allowed the school system to avoid layoffs while requesting level funding from the county.

A public hearing before the supervisors on the school budget proposal was held April 15. No citizen spoke.

The supervisors unanimously approved the school budget after a motion from Supervisor Andy Jackson.

Then the board went on to set the county real estate tax rate at 59.5 cents per $100 of assessed value, and authorized a budget public hearing for May 17 at 7 p.m.

The general fund budget of $32.8 million was meant to protect core county services, county officials have said.

In summing up the 2011 budget after the meeting, County Administrator Gary Larrowe said there have been cuts in seven of the 16 general county departments and level funding in another three.

Increased funding shows up in six areas, but some stemmed from grant dollars. Larrowe gave as examples the grant that funds victim-witness services and a grant for an ambulance.

The county administrator's office funding went down by $42,502. Some budget changes were due to shifting around operations and dollars.

Moving the phone system under the information technology department caused the IT budget to go up.

Services for citizens in both county and constitutional offices are likely to be affected by declines in revenue and state funding reductions, the county administrator said. Constitutional offices alone have been hit with a $1.7 million funding cut from the state for fiscal 2011.

Larrowe believes the funding cuts will resonate because of the traditionally low number of employees on staff. "We are so close to the edge, that if someone has a cold and is out a day, we have to re-arrange the whole system to have people just to cover the phones."

He expects this will have to be corrected by adding "appropriate professional talent" in the future.

The results may not be apparent to citizens until the new budget year starts in three months, he said.

"It will be difficult to know all of the avalanche of impacts until after July 1. When the citizens need information, an inspection or data, it may take an extra few days to accomplish in some areas," Larrowe said.

Still, Carroll officials continue to prepare for future needs and growth by installing water and sewer systems at each Interstate 77 interchange, tapping a sustainable water supply from the New River and updating the comprehensive plan.

(Supervisors included $1 million in the budget to go towards Public Service Authority expenses and project costs for 2011, just like last year, Larrowe confirmed.)

Leadership is all about "dealing in hope," Larrowe said, borrowing a phrase from Napoleon. "The board of supervisors has certainly been 'dealing' in a positive way to take negative times and provide positive services for our community."