County hammers out good fiscal plan

The Sampson County Board of Commissioners and county staff deserve a lot of credit for this year’s budget preparation and the path that led to perhaps the most timely and least debated passage of a fiscal plan that, on top of everything else, doesn’t call for a tax increase.

After years of budget debacles, the change in direction is welcome and greatly appreciated.

While we, like many others, would have liked to have seen employees receive a cost of living adjustment, both school systems and the community college get more in the way of funds, and increased financial nods to areas where great staffing needs seem to always arise, such as the Department of Social Services and the Sheriff’s Office, overall we believe the 2018-19 fiscal plan is a solid one that moves Sampson forward without placing undue burden on its citizens.

In fairness, the approved budget does provide a 2 percent hike in per pupil funding to Clinton City and Sampson County schools, a move that will certainly help education officials meet the growing demands they see year after year.

We also applaud the county’s willingness to put more money behind good intentions to improve the animal shelter, something we believe must be done. To that end, the approved budget provides a $60,000 increase which is expected to cover the reclassification of an existing position to a vet tech position, as well as increase medical supplies and provide additional dog pens. The funding is needed and appreciated, but it is the watchful eye over what goes on over there — and what doesn’t — that is needed the most.

But perhaps the most forward-thinking item in the approved budget is the plan to save $5 million for economic development efforts. Sampson needs strong economic development both in the county and within the city of Clinton, and it admittedly takes money to ensure those things happen.

According to a June 15 Sampson Independent article, the county will utilize $1.5 million previously designated for loan reserves as the foundation for the Economic Development reserve and then add an additional $250,000 from the 2018-19 budget, with additional $250,000 installments added each year. The intent is to use funds from that reserve, along with state and federal grants, to purchase property for industrial sites and develop needed infrastructure to attract industry to Sampson.

Commissioners will have the final say on expending money from the reserve.

Setting aside money for economic development is a good idea and we applaud the county and most particularly manager Ed Causey for vision that sees past the next fiscal year to this county’s future, one we hope will include industrial growth.

When it comes to growing our economic base, no one can afford to rest on their laurels, allowing industrial potential to bypass us to seek location in more aggressive and visionary areas. Lying dormant is not an option and we are glad commissioners concur. What’s more we are glad they are actually backing up their words with necessary dollars.

Commissioners and county staff deserve our applause for a smooth budget ride this year and for hammering out, with little fuss and fury, a solid budget plan that does as much as possible within the confines necessary to keep the property tax rate at the current 82 cents per $100 valuation.

That’s no easy task, but this year commissioners were up to it and as taxpayers we should all be grateful.