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County may have to borrow to meet payroll

by Larry S. Chowning

Since the early 1980s, the Middlesex Board of Supervisors has always had enough funds to meet the county payroll. However, it’s questionable whether or not the county can meet its October 15 payroll obligations.

County treasurer Betty Bray told the board Tuesday that she is not sure there will be enough funds. She said it depends on tax collections over the next week.

On Monday, $74,000 in real estate and personal property taxes were paid by citizens. “If we continue like this, we will be fine, but I have no way of knowing if people are going to continue to pay their taxes early,” said Bray.

Bray suggested supervisors give her the authority to borrow funds from a local bank if the need arises. “Our people need to be paid on time,” she said.

Supervisors did not go that far but agreed, if need be, to hold a called meeting if the treasurer determines funds need to be borrowed from a bank to meet payroll obligations. “They deserve it and have worked hard for it,” said board chairman Robert Crump.

County administrator Charles Culley said, “Right now, we don’t have enough money to meet our obligations. We can’t tell you who is going to pay their taxes between now and October 15 when we have to write paychecks. We do know what we have to pay out on October 15. That’s the pickle we are in. We are not going to borrow money if we don’t need to.”

Saluda District supervisor Jack Miller said, “If things are this bad now, Lord only knows what it will be next year.” Miller was referring to the state’s financial problems and the trickle down effect it has on the county budget.

Pinetop District supervisor Kenneth W. Williams asked how this financial situation happened. “Since I’ve been on this board, we have never had to borrow money to meet payroll,” he said.

Culley said that social programs for foster children and comprehensive services for students who do not function in a normal classroom have cost a great deal more money than anticipated. Social programs have cost county taxpayers upwards of $800,000, and only $400,000 was budgeted.

Jamaica District supervisor Wayne Jessie said the board should give Culley and Bray the authority to go to a bank and borrow the needed money. “Time is going to be a factor,” he said. “Suppose we wait too long and can’t get the money from the bank on time. Sometimes when you wait, bad things happen.”

Williams said Bray should go ahead and contact the banks and make sure there will be enough time to borrow the money to meet the October 15th payroll.

Pinetop District supervisor Fred Crittenden said county officials need to start looking at ways to cut employees. “When I came on the board, we were operating on borrowed money and we had to make some hard decisions,” he said.

Crittenden took office in 1980 and that year supervisors approved a 9-cent real estate tax increase, one of the highest in county history.

posted 10.08.2009

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