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Nash County approves $95.6 million budget; taxes stay flat for 11th year

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NASHVILLE — Nash County commissioners unanimously approved the 2020-21 fiscal year budget Monday after the required public hearing yielded no public comment.

With no new discussion after weeks of preparation, the board adopted the formal resolution for a balanced budget of $95,575,924, only $2,555 less than the current original budget, with no changes since County Manager Zee Lamb introduced the spending plan June 1.

Along with the approved spending, commissioners approved the same ad valorem property tax rate of 67 cents per $100 valuation, the 11th consecutive year the rate has remained unchanged.

“In the last five years we haven’t had budget comments,” Lamb told commissioners during June’s second scheduled meeting. “When you don’t raise taxes, you generally don’t have much comments.”

The county held the line on spending as well as revenue, citing uncertainties related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lamb said the budget contained no new initiatives and positions or changes in pay rates, but acknowledged the county will review the first quarter revenues and revisit possible pay increases in October.

“Our numbers are looking pretty good,” Lamb told commissioners. “Our tax collection is above last year and sales taxes are coming in pretty well. We’re actually cautiously optimistic as we go forward. I know the board will revisit certain issues in a future time.”

“If things look better than we think they might, it’s a lot easier to add something than to take it away,” noted board Chairman Robbie Davis.

“There have been many meetings and much discussion about this budget,” said Commissioner Wayne Outlaw. Acknowledging the need to consider pay increases later, he asked the staff to present monthly revenue projections “to drive that discussion.”

“There are things we are not funding we would have liked to have funded,” Lamb said, “and things we did not increase we may have to come back later and increase.”

“Let’s talk positive about the economy and everything so the taxes will come in at a normal rate so we don’t even have to talk about a tax increase,” Commissioner Fred Belfield said jokingly.

In other business, the board approved the 2020 Urgent Repair Loan Program, which received $100,000 from the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency through the N.C. Housing Trust Fund.

The funds will be used to assist very low-income residents with “special needs” to provide “accessibility modifications” to their homes or other repairs necessary to stabilize deterioration so they can continue living at home.

Patsy McGhee, assistant to the county manager, said the funding was enough to improve 10 homes using forgivable loans up to a maximum of $10,000 each. She said the county would take applications from eligible property owners from July 1-10. Loans will be awarded by Nov. 20 and all rehabilitation work must be completed by Dec. 31, 2021.

Applications will be available from Community Development Specialist Jacob Ferry, she said.

In another item of business, the board approved a COVID-19 grant project ordinance for $2,028,524 to account for federal and state funding as well as related expenditures.

The federal funds include $149,551 in Medicaid funding amd $1,784,259 from the CARES Act Provider Relief Funds from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services stimulus. The state is awarding Nash County $94,714 in COVID-19 funding from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Public Health.

The county is planning to use the Coronavirus Relief Fund to cover $400,000 in medical expenses, $300,000 in public health expenses, $425,000 for payroll, $275,000 to “facilitate compliance,” $100,000 for economic support, $84,259 for “other functions,” and $200,000 for municipal grants.

The state funding will go toward supplies, equipment, travel and training and lab work.

Besides approving a variety of budget amendments, commissioners were also introduced to three young college students who received Golden LEAF college scholarship internships for the summer, beginning June 1 and continuing until mid-July.

The new interns recognized were Joseph Brake of Nashville, a rising junior at Fayetteville State University; Zaniya Caine of Rocky Mount’s Battleboro community, a rising senior at N.C. Central University; and Cathy Nicholson of Wilson, a rising sophomore at UNC-Greensboro.

“Their supervisors all report that they are doing fantastic work at Nash County,” said McGhee. 

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