LAURINBURG — Still in the early stages of developing the budget for the county’s 2016-2017 fiscal year, County Manager Kevin Patterson said on Monday that he plans to present the Scotland County Board of Commissioners with options for a property tax rate reduction.
The commissioners are expected to begin budget discussions in late May, and a public hearing on the budget is tentatively scheduled for the board’s regular June meeting.
“It is my goal to attempt to create some additional benefit for the employees as well as bringing in options for reduction in the property tax rates for the board to consider,” said Patterson.
While the solid waste availability fee implementer for the current year will likely remain the same at $55 for those in a municipality and $85 for all other properties, Patterson may recommend another increase in the county’s water rates.
The county obtains its water from the city of Laurinburg, which increased its rates 30 percent last year.
“We need to finish compensating for that this year in addition to making sure we have a positive cash flow as well as actually a positive net income in all of our enterprise funds,” Patterson said. “The goal will be at the end of next year to actually have a positive net income in all enterprise funds for the first time in a number of years.”
Also on Monday, the commissioners endorsed a proposal by Scotland County Historical Properties Commission chairman Lee Gaunt to rename the John Blue House complex to “North Carolina Rural Heritage Center.”
“To better show the different things that we have available, we have four subcategories underneath that,” Gaunt said, listing the John Blue House, Heritage Village including cabins and outbuildings, Museum of Agriculture and History, and the Indian Museum of the Carolinas.
“This museum has more than just Scotland County items; most of these items are of interest to anybody that’s interested in agricultural history.”
Gaunt said that a Civil War reenactment is planned on the site next month.
In other business, the commissioners approved a shared use agreement with the Scotland County Schools including the Spring Hill Middle School athletic fields and Covington Street Elementary School playground as well as the county tennis center.
“This is a continuation of a document that we’ve had in place for quite some time,” said Patterson. “Parks and Recreation at the identified facilities will have secondary use to the schools, but also opening up Covington Street as basically a community playground.”
The agreement also permits staff to begin joint use of additional facilities without further board approval, though specifically excluding Scotland High School.
The board also approved an amended employee substance abuse policy that applies to more employees in safety-sensitive positions. Employees of the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office will continue to be subject to the stricter policy already in place in that department.
“We have basically revisited our substance abuse policy and included or expanded that list to include more members of the DSS staff, perhaps a couple of members of the health department staff, primarily people who transported clients, particularly those who transported children,” said Commissioner Whit Gibson.
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.