County supervisors approve budget with only voter-approved tax hike

The Pulaski County Board of Supervisors on Monday morning adopted the county’s budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year.

Board Chairman Andy McCready said the budget includes a 13-cent increase in the county’s real estate tax rate, which voters approved in November to pay the debt service payments for the new middle school, but no increase in the personal property tax rate or use of any reserve funds to balance the budget.

The budget also, according to County Administrator Jonathan Sweet, provides local funds for schools at the highest level ever in the county’s history at over $21 million.

“One of the board’s biggest accomplishments in next fiscal year’s budget are the significant investments we are making in public education,” said McCready. “We are funding the school system at the highest local levels in the county’s history. We approved more than $15 million in county funds for school system operations, teacher and paraprofessional raises, new technology and infrastructure, capital outlay and the purchase of new school buses.  And we suspect we will be receiving a request from the school board to appropriate even more money in carry-over funds for their slated capital improvement needs.”

It was noted the supervisors’ budget actions had helped the school board achieve its top seven out of nine budget priorities, including teacher raises, investments in technology and others.

McCready noted that during the spring, there was discussion on the possibility of raising the county’s personal property tax rate by 20 cents on $100 of assessed value.

The increase was considered as a way to raise more money for REMSI, which McCready said was having trouble at times responding to a growing number of rescue calls from citizens.

However, he said, the board was able to find a way to provide an additional $137,000 to REMSI without the need for hiking the personal property tax rate.

McCready explained that Pulaski County is generally covered during the day by three ambulances – one each in Pulaski and Dublin which run 24 hours per day – and one in Fairlawn which runs 16 hours per day. The ambulances are manned primarily by paid staff and supplemented by volunteers.

The additional funds provided by the board will go toward funding an additional fire / medic ambulance, which will operate five days per week, 12 hours each day roughly from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

The unit will be manned by medical personnel who are also certified as fire fighters.  The unit will be dispatched whenever a wreck or fire call comes in – when it is available – to supplement existing fire and rescue personnel.

In a press release issued by Sweet following approval of the budget, Vice Chairman Dean Pratt stated the board had been working with the county’s Economic Development Authority to better position the community to attract more foreign direct investments.

“As a result, the supervisors have made financial preparations to fund a new International Baccalaureate program within our high school and to do so with an additional appropriation above the more than $21 million the county has already set aside for schools in 2018-19,” Pratt said.

According to the release, the International Baccalaureate (IB) program is an international educational foundation headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland and founded in 1968.

It offers four educational programs: the IB Diploma Program and the IB Career-related Program are for students aged 16 to 19.  To teach these programs, schools need to be authorized by the International Baccalaureate Organization.

Sweet said the budget meets the mission of the board in formulating the 2018-19 fiscal year budget, as well as its theme of “Getting Stuff Done.”

The budget totals nearly $134 million in revenues and expenditures from all sources – local, state and federal.

Local real estate taxes account for $19.6 million in revenue, while personal property taxes add another $5.3 million.  Some $4 million comes in from machinery and tool taxes, and $465,000 is raised from penalties and interest.

On the expenditure side, counting local state and federal funds, the largest appropriation of some $50.9 million goes to schools, cafeterias, school capital and Governor’s School operations.