County raids piggy bank by $2.1 million to balance budget

PAMLICO COUNTY– The vote Monday night to approve a  $23 million budget for the next fiscal year was unanimous, and avoided any increase in the ad valorem property tax rate. However, two commissioners – Candy Bohmert and Missy Baskervill, suggested tapping savings is not the best way to close a gap between county revenues and expenses. 

“I am not happy with this budget pulling well over $2 million to fund (the deficit),” said Bohmert. “We need to make people aware that this is not something good for us. I feel like I am walking on hot rocks on this one (budget).”

Both Bohmert and Baskervill alluded to the negative effects of inflation, rising gas prices, and increasing interest rates.  “I am very nervous about it,” added Baskervill, “but I am going to vote for this budget.” 

Commissioner Pat Prescott recalled previous budgets have also called for use of savings. “There is a chance that we may not need them like what has happened in the past (with other budgets).”

Commissioner Ed Riggs, Jr. concurred with Prescott, reminding his colleagues that over $1 million in COVID relief money has been set aside. “If things do end up going wrong (with the economy),  we can use the American Rescue Plan money.”

County Manager Tim Buck – who handles the budgeting process in conjunction with Finance Officer Bill Fentress – responded to the concerns. 

“Trust me,” said Buck, now in his 15th year as County Manager, “I do not like recommending a $2.1 million fund balance allocation. We had a really good year for ad valorem revenue, and we are seeing some increases in our tax base. I can assure you we are not just going to sit here and get in some predicament.”