Sampson’s Board of Commissioners are finding a precarious financial situation growing by the day, as board members continue to assess the needs in preparation for budget planning while trying to find a way to meet those needs without seeking a hike in property taxes.
Given the growing list of needs, some which are now mandated to be met, the likelihood of the commissioners continuing their mantra of doing more with less seems hardly a song they should keep singing.
They need to do more in terms of courthouse security, a viable pay structure for hard-working employees and long-term maintenance for the county’s 26 buildings. But, the truth is, they aren’t going to be able to meet those great needs with less, no matter how much the gentlemen currently seated at the table would like to believe they can.
The piper will have to be paid.
Tighter courthouse security that includes Superior Court Judge Doug Parsons’ mandate that metal detectors at all three courthouses and operable panic buttons for judges all be installed within the next six months won’t come without a hefty price tag. It’s been a cost commissioners have tried to avoid as they’ve talked about the great need for beefed up security without actually taking the necessary steps to alleviate some of the most apparent problems.
The same is true of employee pay. There’s been much talk of improving the current structure both to reward loyal employees and to stop the revolving door that has seen so many good people get their training here and move on to higher paying jobs in neighboring counties. But so far, talk is about all that’s actually happened. Doing more, you see, will cost money, and that’s a commitment that commissioners just haven’t been willing to make.
Now, this week, Public Works staff have echoed earlier sentiments regarding upkeep of the 26 county-owned buildings, moves that will necessitate upwards of $700,000 be set aside to meet those growing maintenance needs.
Such a maintenance program takes into account such components as roof, HVAC, plumbing, fire protection, site improvements and electrical, all necessary maintenance needs that left unmet can lead to even costlier issues down the road.
Commissioners made a big commitment to overall maintenance a few years back, establishing a capital reserve account for long-term facility upkeep, but last budget year, set-aside for that waned, a sign of the financial quandary the board has often found itself in.
The commissioners determination not to raise taxes coupled with growing needs, and now mandates heaped on top of that, the board is at a crossroads.
While we are no fan of higher property taxes, realistically something has to give. To provide competitive salaries, increase courthouse security and maintain buildings takes money, and apparently its more than the county can now expend.
The decisions are difficult ones we know, but commissioners were elected to serve the county, be good stewards of our resources and to make hard choices like those before them now.
Action is needed. The sooner, the better.