June 4 – Implementing a new compensation plan for county employees is expected to cost about $6.6 million.
Based on the financial surplus accumulated over the past year, the county still needs to find about $2.5 million, and that must be in recurring dollars.
At a Wilson County Budget Committee meeting on Tuesday, Wilson County Chief Financial Officer Aaron Maynard mapped out some possible paths to get there. These options included a possible increase in taxes or a combination of transfers between various county funds using growth revenues.
“There are two tax options,” Maynard said. “You could raise the tax rate by $0.04. You could pay it on (the American Recuse Plan), for a few years, which I don’t recommend, but if you wanted to do it and give yourself the time to run a public referendum on a tax on wheels, public safety or something like that, I suppose you could.”
However, Maynard indicated that he preferred a different route.
“The general fund needs $2.2 million to make up its portion of the compensation plan,” Maynard said. “(The solid waste department) needs $16,000, and the (roads commission) needs $205,000. (Total) I need $2.5 million. What I’m proposing , is that you take it out of debt service and replace it with transfers from the capital projects fund.
This option would only serve as a short-term solution.
“You still have money in the capital projects fund, but you would eventually lose the ability to build anything from capital projects,” Maynard said. “That’s what we would end up sacrificing.”
According to Maynard, in 2022 Wilson County will receive a total of $27.6 million. In debt repayment, he spent $23.5 million, leaving a surplus of $4.1 million, which can be used for the compensation plan. That’s where the remaining $2.5 million comes in.
Maynard cautioned against doing too much to impact the county’s borrowing power. Borrowing costs can be as high as $70,000 per million dollars borrowed. For example, with a $50 million project like rebuilding West Wilson Middle School, $3.5 million is needed to borrow money.
“Worst-case scenario, if I’m wrong, debt service has enough to take care of it,” Maynard said. “Your wildcard here is development. As long as it continues to explode, you’re good. If you were to see a significant economic downturn, under no circumstances what we offer (is) not detrimental to the ‘future. next 12 to 18 months.’
Like the fundamental law of states of gravity, what goes up must come down, so Maynard cautions against optimistic future projections.
“We’re going back to normal spending levels,” Maynard said. “It’s not my goal to put away $5 million every year. I don’t want to go back on a regular basis because we can’t survive that way, but the last two years have just been weird. Do you want to pretend like next year is going to be 20% more than this year?”
Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto added, “(Maynard) knows the easiest thing to do would be to say, let’s raise taxes. After all, we’ve only done it twice in 14 years. Let’s do that. At the same time, he values the citizens here, and if we have income, it would almost be a sin to tax them when they’re there.”
The compensation plan was finally approved by the budget committee to move the budget process forward.
“From what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen, we absolutely have to do this for our employees,” said Wendell Marlowe, chairman of the Wilson County budget committee. “We were presented with a way to do this without significantly sacrificing anything to county government.”