Moore County Budget Cuts – “We Will Not Do Away With The Arts”

On Tuesday, February 7, a Moore County Board of Commissioners meeting was held at the Historic Courthouse in Carthage.

During the public hearing, all but two speakers voiced their opinions in regard to the budget cuts and the art, music, and physical education programs. Most explained how these programs have positively impacted themselves and their families.

“It looks like almost everybody here is in support of the schools,” she said.

One woman explained that Moore County has one of the lowest property tax rates in the state and spoke in favor of raising the tax in order to fund school programs.

The additional two speakers touched on the subject of Animal Control. One woman presented the Board with a petition which had over 1,000 signatures since January 31st. She expressed concerns of animals being unnecessarily euthanized by Brenda Sears. Another speaker spoke in favor of Sears, noting how helpful she and Animal Control were when locating his lost dog.

Due to time restraints, four individuals were unable to speak to the Board.

The Director of the Department of Aging, Terri Prots, requested that the Board relinquish a grant received for her department’s Retired Senior Volunteer Program. According to her, the grant has many requirements which put restrictions on the program. In fact, she can better serve the community without the grant.

The Director of Public Safety, Bryan Phillips, was granted permission to remount two ambulances onto new chassis. The remounts save about sixty thousand to seventy thousand dollars per ambulance each time that they remount the chassis.

Commissioner Otis Ritter said, “We need to save sixty thousand dollars all over this county. This gentleman is doing that just by using his head, and I really appreciate it.”

County Manager Wayne Vest then gave a detailed presentation on the school budget, touching on the topic of property taxes, as mentioned in the public hearing.

Vest explained that although some comparisons were made at the meeting as to where Moore County ranks in the state, a single comparison could be misleading.

“Of the seven counties with similar populations to Moore, Moore ranks highest in the 40% allocation, highest per ADM (Average Daily Membership) funding, highest per capita funding and highest property tax per capita,” he said.

“Just looking at the rate is not the most significant thing to look at – we have to look at the overall impact and the overall rate structure of the county, including the county’s tax base,” he said.

“The fact that we have a low property tax rate doesn’t mean we are paying less property tax than anyone around us. We are, in fact, paying more,” Ritter said.

Robbins has the highest municipal rate in Moore County with a rate of sixty-two cents for every $100. A house with the value of $250,000 would have a property tax of $2,787 if it were located in Robbins, compared to the $1450 it would cost elsewhere. This tax applies to all properties, including personal property, personal businesses, and vehicles.

As Robbins continues to grow that both the current high tax rate as well as the impact of any possible increase in taxes may have are both concerns for the town.

“If taxes go up a hundred dollars,” said Graham, “It is going to be very hard [for lower-income families] to work that hundred dollars into their budget.”

According to Vest, funding has been steady, reliable, and predictable. Education is the top priority in spending in the general fund budget.

“I got about sixty-six letters that read the same way that people were more or less -in those letters- doubting whether or not we’re willing to fund the schools fully,” Ritter said. “I hope they’ll open their eyes to realize we will do what’s right by our students.”

“I can tell you now that we will not do away with arts,” Commissioner Otis Ritter commented, “This is not time for a panic, and after looking at what this manager has said I think we are in good physical shape.”

Ritter has received sixty-six letters regarding the programs.

“It’s trash as far as I am concerned . . .,” Ritter said. “It is hard to sit up here and be [upset] over something that has not happened yet, and I doubt that it will happen. . . This county is in good shape, and we want it to stay in good shape.”

Ritter believes the state will “cave” and allow Moore County to have flexibility in determining class sizes for grades K-3, preventing budget cuts for Moore County schools.

“I am looking forward to more clarity as it relates to the additional requirements that are in place now,” Commissioner Frank Quis said.

Quis hopes the house bill will be decided on soon, as it would provide more clarity for those working on the budget.

“Looking at what the state cut and we didn’t, we are going to work closely with our representatives to make sure that they fund as they should fund,” Graham said.

The budget is currently in its beginning stages. It is being composed and is due this upcoming April.

The next Board of Commissioner’s meeting will take place on February 21st at 5:30 PM at the Historic Courthouse in Carthage.