County approves budget

By Jack King

Curry County commissioners on Tuesday approved a budget for the upcoming fiscal year on a 4-1 vote. They also approved a one-eighth of 1 percent increase in gross receipts taxes that will go before voters in September.
Commissioner Pete Hulder voted against the budget, saying he still opposes an additional 1 percent pay increase for county employees, approved by the commission July 1.
The budget totals $17.9 million, with $6.9 million in General Fund expenditures. The General Fund includes funding for the commission, the county manager’s office, the county clerk, the sheriff’s office, county judges, the county tax assessor and the detention center. Some funds also are transferred from the General Fund to the county roads department, County Manager Geneva Cooper said.
The commission approved the gross receipts tax increase by a vote of 3-2, with Hulder and Commissioner Kathrynn Tate voting against it.
Voters will decide that issue at a Sept. 23 special election.
Commissioners approved transferring $318,745 from county reserves to cover a projected budget shortfall in the upcoming year, but a majority of the commissioners have said the county needs the tax increase to cover projected expenses.
Cooper told the commission she has taken an additional $400,000 from reserves — $300,000 to cover increased expenses to house and care for county prisoners and $100,000 to ensure the county road department has a state-required reserve in the budget equaling one-twelfth of its expenses.
A one-eighths of one percent gross receipts tax increase will generate $800,000 a year, commissioners said.
Commissioners Hulder and Kathrynn Tate have said they do not approve of the tax increase, saying the county should hold down expenses.
In other business:
• County Tax Assessor Randy Williams said the annual assessment of taxable value of property in Curry County completed last week shows taxable value in the county has increased approximately $12 million in the last year. Williams said $4 million of the increase came from an increase in taxable value per head of livestock, mostly cattle; $3 million came from an increase in the value of corporate property, particularly utilities; $1 million came from a new dairy in the county; the remainder came from new housing and development.
• The commission approved $11,000 in unauthorized purchases by County Fair Board personnel. Cooper said the purchases would have been approved, but the Fair Board members did not get a purchase order in advance. Hulder said this is the third time the commission has had to approve purchases after the fact and asked that a letter be sent to all department heads reminding them of correct procedures.
• On a 3-2 vote, the commission voted down an amendment to the county personnel policy proposed by Hulder that would have required prior commission approval for all out of state trips. Currently each department has its own budget for out of state trips. Commissioner Albin Smith said there was no need to change the policy if there are no overspending problems and Sheriff Roger Hatcher called the amendment “micro-management.” Hulder and Tate voted “yes” to the amendment.