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Columbus County Commissioners approve budget that prioritizes employee pay increases, public schools, and public safety

Updated: Jun. 7, 2021 at 8:41 PM EDT
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WHITEVILLE, N.C. (WECT) - Columbus County Commissioners approved the $81.5 million recommended budget for FY 2022 in a meeting Monday night, an increase of 5.2% over last year’s adopted budget.

The budget was approved 6-1 with Commissioner Giles E. (Buddy) Byrd casting the dissenting vote.

Byrd was concerned about the use of CARES Act funding within the budget and the lack of a budget workshop.

“Look the public needs to know — and in the past 12 years prior, we’ve always had budget workshops and we’ve gone department by department, line by line,” said Byrd. “And then the public had the opportunity to know what went up, what went down, what was funded, what wasn’t funded.”

The budget was drawn up by the new Columbus County manager, Edwin H. Madden, Jr., in accordance with the goals set out by commissioners at the annual budget retreat.

Total General Fund expenses of $66,739,425 budgeted for FY 2022 are projected to increase over...
Total General Fund expenses of $66,739,425 budgeted for FY 2022 are projected to increase over FY 2021 budget by $3,861,744 (6.1%).(WECT)

The budget addressed primary goals established by the board including: increased pay for all employees; additional support for law enforcement, public safety and public schools; enhanced capabilities of the county’s water and sewer systems, and improved broadband; and new opportunities for economic development.

Total General Fund expenses of $66,739,425 budgeted for FY 2022 are projected to increase over FY 2021 budget by $3,861,744 (6.1%).

The largest category of expenses is for salaries followed by education.

Public safety (the Columbus County Sheriff’s Office) is also getting an increase of close to $740,000. This increase addresses the need for nine new full-time positions, a drone, and 12 new police vehicles.

“Our cars are wore out. We have — I don’t know how many cars now with over 130,000 miles on them. It’s just not safe — not good for our people,” said Sheriff Jody Greene.

Although the property tax rate technically stayed the same, because of the increase in property values following a revaluation earlier this year, residents can expect an overall tax increase of 10 percent.

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