Depts, agencies press commissioners for $22M more than they currently get

County commissioner board chairman John Paisley, Jr. (center in this file photo from earlier this year) was missing from Monday night's meeting – or rather was participating remotely via the Zoom teleconferencing platform while still in quarantine having contracted COVID-19.

Alamance County’s commissioners officially kicked off the annual budget process on Wednesday (April 21) with the first day of a two-day “retreat” that they’ve scheduled to hear spending requests from the various departments and agencies that receive funds from the county.

Wednesday’s marathon session allowed the commissioners to hear from some of the county’s largest beneficiaries, including the Alamance-Burlington school system, Alamance Community College, and the office of Alamance County’s sheriff.

The commissioners also received a broad overview of this year’s requests from Alamance County’s manager Bryan Hagood, who warned that the numbers that would be presented to them would be raw, unexpurgated proposals that he’ll ultimately have to pare back before he presents his recommended budget next month.

“This gives you a chance,” Hagood told the commissioners, “to hear what [the county’s departments and agencies] are trying to accomplish for county citizens and why they think that’s important…On May 17, I will be bringing into a new manager’s budget to share with you. It will be balanced.”

According to Hagood, the county’s own departments and agencies have collectively requested $131,516,621 – a 12.76 percent increase over their current budgets, which total $116,637,122. Meanwhile, the Alamance-Burlington school system and Alamance Community College are seeking $53,688,520, or 14.33 percent more than their present allocations of $46,957,454. Other outside agencies have asked for a cumulative $4,932,221 or 12.97 percent more than their current allowances of $4,365,794.

The county manager said that, all told, his office has received $190,137,362 in spending requests, or roughly a 13.20 percent jump from the $167,960,370 that it presently spends.
“So, there is a large gap between the budget request and the 2021 adopted budget – about $22 million,” he acknowledged.

Hagood went on to inform the commissioners that the requests they would hear would include 31 additional positions with a total projected cost of $1,707,027. The county manager said that the county’s legal department, the deeds office, and veterans services are also seeking another $59,632 for the “reclassification” of certain positions. Meanwhile, five other departments have collectively asked for $95,499 to establish so-called career ladders that would reward employees who obtain additional training or certification.

The county manager also touched on the various requests for equipment and vehicles that his office has received from the county’s departments. The county current funds these capital purchases with the proceeds from a .96-cent share of its property tax. Hagood told the commissioners that the county expects to have $1,467,014 available for this “penny plan” in the new fiscal year. He added, however, that $401,330 of this revenue will go toward debt payments for previous equipment purchases. In the meantime, the county manager’s office has received $1,767,661 in requests for the remaining funds, leaving $701,977 or so that wouldn’t be covered by the available revenue.

Hagood told the commissioners that the county will have to send another $623,404 of its overall revenues to the state retirement system to cover an anticipated increase of 1.2 percent in the county’s contributions for sworn deputies and civilian employees.

The county manager went on to present a couple of other, optional allocations to the commissioners that concerned large swaths of the county government’s workforce. He shared, for example, the anticipated price tags for a 2-percent merit-based raise and 2-percent cost-of-living adjustment, which are expected to run $549,187 and $1,297,663 respectively. Hagood said that it would also cost the county $740,226 to fund an existing seven-year service bonus for county staff members, while another $62,370 would be needed to cover additional prospective bonus for people who’ve spent five and six years in the county’s employ.