Dare FY24 General Fund budget up about 5%, no tax increase

By on July 13, 2023

(Credit: Dare County)

Spending increases for schools, employees, cuts in health insurance, recycling costs

Dare County’s General Fund operating budget of about $130 million for Fiscal Year 2024 reflects an increase of about 5% from last year’s figure and maintains levels of service with no tax increase.

The Dare County Board of Commissioners adopted the overall $224,553,176 budget—of which the General Fund represents $130,083,408—during its June 5 meeting. That followed Dare County Manager Bobby Outten’s proposed budget presentation at the commissioners’ May 17 meeting.

Last year’s General Fund was $123,964,551 out of a $213,456,649 overall number for all funds in FY 2023.

Outten attributed the across-the-board budget increase to inflation. “Everything costs more this year than last year,” he told the Voice. “So every software program, every tire replacement, every piece of equipment [the budget] increased to cover all those additional costs.”

As always, the largest three areas of spending are public safety (31%), education (23%) and human services (14%)—which includes social services, health and mental health services.

The Dare County Board of Commissioners’ priorities remain unchanged from the 2023 budget: Long-term financial planning for capital, economic development, education, human resources and maintaining the current levels of service.

In changes from last year, the county’s salary study and implementation of those recommendations that became effective on Jan. 1, 2023, is the No. 1 expenditure increase in this year’s budget, at $1,867,322.

The second-highest increase is $1,538,012 for a 3% cost of living pay adjustment (COLA) for full-time and part-time benefits-eligible employees. The third-highest expenditure increase is $1,551,762 for Dare County Schools’ funding. Aside from the extra $1.54 million spent on school operations, an additional $1.4 million increase was also earmarked for county-employed school nurses and school resource officers.

Meanwhile, the top three spending decreases in the new budget are drops of $689,234 in health insurance, $207,711 in the health department and $117,200 in recycling costs.

Outten attributed the health insurance savings to a low claim volume and the county’s employee wellness efforts. “Generally you’re looking at three to five percent increases [annually] in healthcare costs, and ours have been relatively flat for the last couple years, which is good,” he said.

The county also offers its employees the use of a clinic designed to catch illnesses early, which he said employees can visit during their workday without a dock in pay or using any time off. This clinic was established several years ago.

“We encourage them to go if they feel bad,” Outten said. “We would rather them go take care of the problem early and miss an hour [of work], rather than miss a week.”

The health department cuts reflected the eliminations of six positions—some vacant and some grant-funded—including the Dental Van program. The county couldn’t hire a dentist “even with a very competitive salary,” according to the budget, so a contract service will replace that program in the fall.

The recycling cuts similarly came from eliminating three long-vacant positions, according to Outten.

Dare County has the seventh-lowest property tax in the state in 2023, at 40.05 cents per $100 of assessed value. That is considerably lower than the state’s average property tax of 67 cents.

Outten attributed this to the fact that “we watch all our pennies, and we make sure if we spend the money, we can justify the expenses. We’ve been able to maintain one of the lowest tax rates in the state by doing that.”

Because of the level of tourism, Dare County has a much larger Emergency Medical Services operation than similarly sized counties with populations around 35,000, Outten noted. He said the same goes for services such as law enforcement and garbage collection, which all must cover 300,000-some people during the four to five months of the tourist season. The county puts occupancy tax revenues toward those increased services.

“We cover as much of that as we can from the visitors, because they’re the ones creating the larger need for services, and so we try not to saddle the local population with those visitor costs,” he noted. “The occupancy tax helps to do that.”



Comments

  • COLA

    Yes indeed…..everything has gone up BUT Dare salaries. It is truly difficult to pay bills.
    Shame on Outten and the BOC. You PROMISED a fair COLA and once AGAIN you are NOT honoring your word. ALL of the Dare Employees are jumping ship to be employed at the surrounding towns who have given a significant COLA to their employees. It seems that this small towns want to keep their employees! Why don’t you Dare?

    Friday, Jul 14 @ 9:29 am
  • James

    Don’t forget long-employed retirees.
    Never a cost of living increase!!!

    Friday, Jul 14 @ 5:01 pm
  • Ray Ray

    How about saving roughly 20% of the spendable budget , and save some for things we have to pay interest on for many years , ( like beach replenishment, , new buildings etc ) , as well for unforeseen times when inflation becomes out of control or tourism drops off due to big economic down turn , until we have roughly 1 year’s expenditures stored up , so we have the means to meet the challenges presented by economic issues like the Cost Of Living increase over the last few years increasing by Double Digit percentages .

    Saturday, Jul 15 @ 1:34 pm