A $539,000 transfer from its reserve fund together with some building and recycling funds will enable Union County to address a number of current and future needs while still balancing the budget without raising taxes.
Union County Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve third and final reading the 2012-2013 budget ordinance. The budget, which takes effect July 1, projects revenues and expenditures totaling $12,347,822. or $125,560 more than the $12,222,262 budgeted for fiscal 2011-2012.
The new budget does not include a tax increase, but does include a 3 percent cost-of-living increase for county employees, $300,000 for new patrol vehicles for the Union County Sheriff’s Office and a one-time match of $50,000 for improvements at the Union County Airport. It also includes $54,000 to replace funding the county has lost due to state budget cuts and $135,000 for a “Futures Account.”
Supervisor Tommy Sinclair said the Futures Account will be funds set aside for any special needs that should arise locally during the fiscal year. The funding for the account was added Tuesday following a letter from council member Dora Martin-Jennings read by Sinclair. The letter requested a county allocation of $65,000 for improvements at the Cross Keys House. While the funds could be used for the Cross Keys House improvements, Sinclair said that has still be determined.
The county will use a $539,000 transfer from its reserve fund to cover the cost of the new patrol vehicles, airport improvements, replacement of state funds, and funding of the Futures Account. The transfer will enable the county to cover these expenditures, give its employees the cost-of-living increase and balance the budget as required by law without raising taxes.
The transfer will reduce the reserve fund from $4.1 million to $3.7 million. In recommending that council use the transfer to balance the budget without raising taxes, Sinclair pointed out that a reserve fund equal to 20 percent of a government entity’s annual budget is considered a safe operating reserve. With the transfer, Sinclair said the county’s reserve will still be in excess of 30 percent of its operating budget.
Sinclair also pointed out that the county might be able to relatively quickly replace the transferred funds with tax revenue generated by the Gestamp expansion and the arrival of new industries such as ESAB Welding & Cutting and the Belk eCommerce distribution and fulfilment center.
The new budget also includes the allocation of unused building project funds to cover the cost of renovating the old Chrysler building, part of which will be used as the new location of the Union County Vehicle Maintenance Department. The county is also considering using the rest of the building for storage space and to house some offices.
An equipment upgrade at the Public Works Department is also included in the new budget and would be paid for with some recycling funds.