The Guilford County Board of Commissioners’ Thursday, May 16 meeting was one of the most important meetings of the year because it was the one where Guilford County Manager Mike Halford brought his recommended budget to the commissioners, who will decide on a final budget next month.

Halford made a very interesting comment during his budget address to the board. He said that he was unable to recommend giving Guilford County Schools everything school officials asked for this year because, if he did, he would have to cut 30 of the county’s 40 departments – not cut their budgets some, but cut out 30 departments entirely.

He decided that was a bad idea.

The recommended total for all funds in Halford’s budget is $990.6 million. That includes pass-through funds such as the American Rescue Plan Act federal relief money and similar funds.

 The more representative budget is the county’s General Fund budget, which comes to a total of $831 million – only a couple of percentage points higher than the budget adopted last summer for fiscal 2023-2024.  That budget doesn’t include pass-through money.

The new proposed budget doesn’t have a property tax rate increase: The tax rate remains 73.05 cents for every $100 of assessed property value.

Recently, the county commissioners instructed Halford that they didn’t want to see a tax increase this year. Plus, the commissioners don’t need it.  Because the 2022 revaluation of property happened when housing values were skyrocketing, Guilford County gets about $92 million in extra money every year since the Board of Commissioners didn’t adjust the tax rate downward to compensate for the higher property values.

That’s why your tax bill went up so much even though the tax rate remained the same.

Just over 45 percent of the proposed budget – $453.3 million – is allocated to Guilford County Schools and Guilford Technical Community College, including paying back debt on the massive amounts of bonds that are now being issued for Guilford County Schools.

The state recently changed the formula as to what percentage of a county budget should be held in savings, but in the past that number has been 8 percent.  Currently, Guilford County has just over 15 percent in savings, so that should keep the Local NC Government Commission happy. That state commission makes sure that counties don’t overextend themselves when it comes to spending.

Unlike county managers who came before him and gave very boring by-the-numbers budget messages to the commissioners, Halford makes his presentations interesting by building a story around the budget message each year.

 Last year, Halford presented the budget by going hour by hour through the life of a Guilford County resident.

This year, Halford, who’s an aviation junky and wanted to be a pilot when he was a kid, presented the budget in terms of views from ground level to views from high above.