At a regular meeting last week, the Stokes County Commissioners discussed a proposed loan to CenterPoint Human Services which would help fund the agency’s transition to a managed care organization under the new Medicaid waiver system.
County Manager Rick Morris explained at the Monday, Aug. 27 meeting that during budget season the county set aside funding for CenterPoint’s request for a one-time allocation of $148,217 to fund start-up costs of transitioning to the Medicaid waiver. The county board has not yet given the final go-ahead to disburse those funds to CenterPoint.
CenterPoint, the management entity overseeing mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse services in Forsyth, Stokes, Davie and Rockingham counties, requested a special allocation from each of its member counties to be paid back later.
Morris said he obtained information about CenterPoint’s agreement with Davie County and learned that Davie is charging CenterPoint an interest rate to use the funds. Morris said CenterPoint hopes to pay back the money to Stokes County sooner than the five-year timeline if able. CenterPoint would make annual payments back to the county by reducing the discretionary funding allocation Stokes has to pay each year.
Commissioner Leon Inman, who serves on the CenterPoint board on behalf of the county, said he spoke with officials with CenterPoint who assured him Stokes County would not see a reduction in services.
“I feel comfortable with that,” he remarked.
Kevin Beauchamp, CFO of CenterPoint, was on hand to make comments. He said discretionary funding stays in Stokes County and the reduction in services would be to other counties who do not approve the funds for CenterPoint.
Inman said he was comfortable with not charging CenterPoint interest on the money borrowed. Commissioner Jimmy Walker said he would like to see the county start off with a nominal interest fee since the next few budget years are going to be tight.
“We really need to be good stewards, good fiduciaries of the citizens’ money,” remarked Walker.
He was okay with a two-percent interest rate, or finding some way to have a variable rate. He asked what the county would pay in interest if it borrowed money, and Julia Edwards, county finance director, said four percent or more. Commissioner James Booth said he would like to make at least what would be accrued if the money were left in the county bank account. Board Chairman Ernest Lankford said the enterprise is a good partnership that focuses on services for citizens, so he was okay with a rate of just one percent.
“We just want to provide good mental health services,” he remarked.
Walker said he agreed with the concept, but that two percent was still half of what it would be in the regular market. Inman said since the money is coming out of discretionary dollars, it is like charging interest on money the county is already giving. Commissioner Ronda Jones said she sees it both ways. Booth said the county could tie the loan rate to the general fund rate as it fluctuates.
The item will be moved to the action agenda for the next meeting, at which time the board will likely take a vote. The proposal is for the interest rate to be tied to the general fund rate but not to go below one percent.
Also during the meeting:
• The board held a public hearing for the proposed Schedule of Values for the 2013 revaluation of property taxes, but no one signed up to speak. The board will consider approving the schedule at its Sept. 10 meeting. Tax Administrator Tax Jake Oakley said the schedule is very similar to the one used with the last revaluation. The county is looking at about a five-percent decrease in property values overall, though some areas may see values go up or down more than five percent. Oakley said anyone with questions can call his department.
• The county manager said the county got an insurance rebate, and he recommends giving money to participants who paid their premiums, which would affect around 40 people, and the rest would go to the county for the share it contributed. Morris said he would come up with a formula to give out cash rebates, which he will present to the board for consideration at the next meeting.
• The commissioners provided the board clerk with some legislative goals to be sent to the N.C. Association of County Commissioners. These included eliminating unfunded mandates, changing the sales tax back to point of delivery instead of point of sale, preserving the local revenue base, ensuring adequate mental health funding, promoting economic development, preventing laws that weaken local control, restoring more lottery funds to schools, continuing the Hold Harmless fund distribution, and improving funds for early education. A final list will be compiled and sent to Raleigh.
• Local forest officials informed the board that assignment of foresters in the county would stay the way it currently is set up instead of combining offices as previously suggested. There will be no reduction in services.
• Morris said he would come back to the board at the next meeting with detailed information about the proposed upgrade of communications equipment and the relocation of the 911 communications center. “You’ll get the whole picture,” he said. The final proposal will likely be put on the action agenda due to the time-sensitive nature of the project. The radio upgrade is required by federal mandate.
The next meeting of the Stokes County Board of Commissioners will be held on Monday, Sept. 10 at 1:30 p.m. in the Commissioners’ Chambers in the main administrative building in Danbury.