ASHEBORO — On June 19, the Randolph County Board of Commissioners passed a budget for the coming fiscal year that focuses on increases for public safety and education.
While the board lowered the property tax rate from 63.27 cents per $100 of valuation to a flat 50 cents, all 18 fire departments were allowed to keep their current tax rates.
With revaluation during the past year raising property values at historic levels, maintaining current levels of property tax revenues meant lowering the tax rate. However, the fire departments were united in asking that their rates remain the same.
The commissioners approved a total 2023-24 budget of $172,667,030, more than the county manager’s proposed budget of $169,195,179. The extra revenues were bolstered by increasing the estimated sales taxes from 2 percent to 5 percent, or an additional $2,166,000.
The commissioners also added $405,851 from Medicaid hold-harmless funds from the state and an expected increase in ambulance fees of $900,000.
Commission Chair Darrell Frye said that the county continues to have problems hiring personnel for Emergency Services. The budget, he said, has more than $400,000 for a paramedic academy, including $81,134 for a training officer and $329,565 for 10 paramedic trainees. Such an academy would allow the county to train paramedics in-house.
The budget also adds 10 percent to the pay for night-shift paramedics, who are more likely to be enticed to go elsewhere. That increase comes to $108,158.
The Emergency Services appropriation also includes $42,326 for a fire inspector, $328,116 for four field training officers and $314,000 for four paramedics. Capital outlay for heart monitors and CPR devices added another $140,000.
As for education, the new budget appropriates $1,519,910 to the Randolph County School System and $442,784 to Asheboro City Schools. Due to the higher property values in the county, the Archdale-Trinity school tax rate dropped from 9.22 cents per $100 of valuation to 7.03 cents and the Asheboro City Schools tax rate was reduced from 14.39 cents to 11.53 cents.
The budget has $90,000 for two vehicles for Public Buildings and $45,000 for a Cooperative Extension vehicle. The Randolph Senior Adults Association was given an additional $30,258 for meals to the elderly.
The fire departments got their wish to keep their tax rates the same despite revaluation. Frye said the issue is that other “counties and cities are trying to hire our people after we’ve trained them.”
David Allen, commission vice chair, noted that keeping the same rates would create a $4.4 million increase for the fire departments. He said that when he was young and asked his parents for something, he usually got it but not without a lecture.
“Here’s my lecture,” he said. While admitting that “there are needs out there, needs to hire and equipment expenses, a 37 percent increase is a lot for taxpayers.” He also criticized some departments for not properly auditing their finances and called for them to band together for their audits.
“There’s no excuse for not having audits,” Allen said. “You’ve got the money to do it, now do it. Those are my concerns.”
Commissioner Kenny Kidd, while agreeing with Allen, said, “Last night, when I needed help (with a medical issue), four firefighters showed up. I’ll make a motion to approve their request.” Allen seconded the motion and it was approved unanimously.