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Halifax County Manager Tony Brown gave his budget message today, presenting commissioners a proposed $43,682,546 financial plan which contains no tax increase for upcoming fiscal year.

“With your direction, this document represents a continuation of the many important county services we provide in the most cost-effective manner possible with no additional tax burden on our citizens,” he told the board.

Budget highlights

Highlights of the proposed plan are as follows:

Continues county services at efficient and effective levels.

Does not include a property tax increase.

Based on an estimated property tax base of $3,293,624,396 and a tax collection rate of 97.40 percent. The tax rate of 77 cents per $100 value will be adequate to support the fiscal year 2019-2020 budget.

Maintains the current funding for each graded school district at the $735.76 per pupil amount based on the average daily membership.

Continues to provide a competitive benefits package that includes 100 percent paid premiums for health coverage for each full-time employee who participates in the county's wellness program.

Maintains longevity pay program which is an employee retention program to reward long-term full-time employees.

Continues hiring freeze, previous staff reductions and travel restrictions which will remain in effect throughout this budget year.

Includes money to support both economic development and contingency operations.

Continues to require employees to use county vehicles, when available, for travel; this policy amounts to a savings of more than 60 percent in travel costs versus paying mileage for use of personal vehicles.

Funds only critical needs and capital outlay for county departments.

Provides additional funding to non-profit community partners in the amount of $170,500.

(As required by law, the budget will be available for public inspection in the Clerk to the Board's office and in all five county public libraries for the required ten days. A public hearing will be held on Monday, June 3 at 9:30 a.m. with a final adoption scheduled  for Monday, June 17 at 9:30 a.m. After the May 20 meeting, the proposed budget will be available on the county' s website at www.halifaxnc.com)

Future challenges

Said Brown: “Having weathered the recession over the past ten years, Halifax County is in an adequate fiscal position. Our biggest current challenge is investing in our future and the down-payments needed to ensure we prosper as we move forward. These challenges, along with the realities of managing increased expenditure needs with slowly improving revenue streams, will continue to increase pressures on the local property tax base.”

Since he began his tenure in 2007, Brown said Halifax County has met the financial goals necessary to be awarded an A+ bond rating. “Additionally, our exceptional Finance Department has been the recipient of the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report award for the past 19 years in a row, which shows the professional level of service we strive to provide to our citizens. “I am proud of the wonderful staff in our Finance Department; they are so good at what they do that a neighboring county has used our staff to address problems and implement changes to follow our practices here in Halifax County. Imitation is the best form of flattery.”

Expenses over revenues

“We continue to have budget challenges with our ever-increasing expenses and with revenues not keeping pace,” Brown said. “However, I do remain positive about the county's overall fiscal and economic outlook, but we will continue to have revenue challenges as we strive to establish plans for our future.”

The county has a 52.10 percent fund balance —  $31,843,736 — which he said is well above the 8 percent suggested by the Local Government Commission. “Unfortunately, 98 percent of fund balance is not available for general use.”

That is because the funds are either restricted, assigned or committed which he said limits “our cash-on­ hand funds to $999,804 in addressing any additional needs in this budget. This budget allows us to maintain our basic services, but does not provide for any expansion of services.”

No tax increase

Unlike many local governments, Brown said, “We have been able to sustain our operations successfully over the years since the recession with no property tax increase except to cover the debt service on an elementary school.

“Halifax County has always had challenges in being able to provide services to its citizens while keeping the property tax rate low. Compared to our nearby counties, we have one of the lowest property tax rates and of the ten most distressed counties in North Carolina, we are tied for the lowest property tax rate.”

Brown commended both commissioners and staff on their budget oversight and “ability to adapt to our ever-changing economic situation. Our staff remains committed to providing efficient and effective service to our citizens at the lowest cost to all taxpayers. I continually remind our citizens in my various conversations about our local government, we are taxpayers as well and also wish to keep our tax burden low.”

Improved economy

Fortunately, Brown said, “Our economy has improved since the recession of 2007, but like many rural areas, we still lag behind the more prosperous urban areas of our state and country. It is a well­ documented fact that many counties had a drop in their overall tax base during their last property revaluation, including Halifax County which had an overall average drop in value of 7 percent in 2015. Despite these economic challenges and slow recovery from the recession, I am happy to report we have maintained all of our essential services at their current levels.”

The county has experienced growth in some major revenue streams. “Our year-to-date sales tax revenue has increased 8.5 percent. I am also proud to state we have maintained our current tax collection rate at 97.4 percent. Considering the fact Halifax County continues to remain a Tier I county along with the never-ending economic challenges we face, this is an amazing feat.

“Our continued superb collection rate is a credit to the diligent staffs of Doris Hawkins and Shane Lynch in the tax office, Sheriff Wes Tripp of the sheriff's office and Attorney Glynn Rollins of the legal office. The support staff in each of these offices go above and beyond in working with taxpayers in establishing payment plans to aid citizens and minimize hardships.”

Economic development

The county continues to have positive motion in economic development efforts, Brown said. “I applaud the board of commissioners' forward-thinking and proactive approach in aligning the county to create well-paying jobs in the future.

“We have experienced growth. With the North Carolina Department of Transportation's road work in the Roanoke Rapids area, the extension of Premier Boulevard to Highway 125 and of American Legion Road to Premier Boulevard, this will be a prime area for additional growth in the county. Along with support from our economic development commission, its executive director and the county commissioners' positive approach, we are poised to have additional growth in our local economy.”


As required by the state of North Carolina, all counties with multiple graded school districts are required to support each district equally as to local current expense funding based on each district's average daily membership, Brown said.

Counties must also provide funding for school capital needs. This year's budget provides additional capital funding for public schools and community college totaling $786,000 —  $726,000 derived from Article 44 funding and $60,000 from Halifax County funding.

“This additional money resulted from sales tax revenues collected and distributed to the county based on ... Article 44,” the county manager said. “The current allocation is the result of collections over the past year. Going forward each fiscal year, the Halifax County Board of Commissioners will determine whether and how to appropriate these Article 44 funds, which are limited to economic development, public education or community college purposes.”

All three graded school systems will receive funding based on the supplemental school property rate within their respective districts.  

Capital needs

Halifax County has many capital needs, Brown said “This budget continues to address our most pressing capital needs by funding, among other things, debt service payments  for Enfield-Inborden School, Manning Elementary School, social services facility and water service line construction, in addition to the solid waste transfer station.”


“Historically we have had difficult budget situations in Halifax County, the past few years of this budget planning process have been especially challenging in playing catch-up on addressing needs that have been delayed based on our reduced revenues over the recession years,” Brown said. “However, even today, there are unknowns in the areas of lottery revenues, sales tax distributions, allowable 911 fund expenses, beer and wine tax, medicaid transformation, as well as many others that could affect this and upcoming budgets.”

Employee challenges

“We continue to face employee challenges based on our limited revenues,” Brown said. “Unfortunately this year we will be unable to provide any pay increases for employees via a cost of living allowance or fund our pay-for-performance evaluation plan. We will continue to make this a priority to provide support for our human capital employees who provide a great service to our citizens.

“These are both recruitment and retention tools. Higher starting salaries help to hire the best employees possible from our limited talent pool; the pay-for-performance plan provides incentive for these employees to remain with Halifax County by acknowledging and rewarding their service to the community. As evidenced by our exit interview data, low salaries were the number one reason employees departed Halifax County.”