The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Local News

May 23, 2014

Budget calls for no tax hike

Schools, county far apart with proposals

Thursday, May 22, 2014 — If the Stanly County Board of Commissioners approves its manager’s recommended budget, taxpayers will be spared a property tax increase for the eighth straight year.

County Manager Andy Lucas presented his proposed budget of $56 million at Monday night’s board meeting. Per his recommendation, the next fiscal year will cost Stanly taxpayers $581,000 more than last year, or an increase of 1.05 percent (0.05 percent less than the rate of inflation).

Lucas’ budget keeps the county’s property tax rate at 67 cents per $100 valuation, a consistency that he touts as needed stability for small businesses and landowners.

The budget focused on maintaining the commission’s prioritized core goals such as education, public safety, facility maintenance and health and human services. It also centers on catching up on deferred maintenance.

“We’ve got some aging buildings,” Lucas said.

“We’ve got to start reinvesting in ourselves.”

Another rationale for Lucas’ budgetary approach was to construct a budget sustainable for the future.

Prior to Lucas’ presentation, Stanly County Schools Superintendent Terry Griffin pitched her recommended budget that calls for a county appropriation of nearly $700,000. Lucas’ budget, however, earmarks roughly $250,000, or $450,000 less than requested, toward the school system’s request.

SCS’s request for additional funding include: an additional school nurse ($60,587), social worker ($45,587 less a $15,000 grant), teacher assistants restored to eight hours per day ($158,500), two positions of lead teachers in middle/high schools for career development and curriculum ($121,174), addition of cross country for middle schools ($8,000) and stipends for teachers to work at Career Development Center ($130,000).

Other requests for Griffin’s proposed budget increase include: instructional supplies for science labs ($83,000), reading materials for libraries and classes ($83,000) and athletic trainer start-up supplies ($40,000).

Lucas is recommending a 1 percent increase ($95,709) in SCS’s current expenses and a $150,000 one-time supplies and materials grant.

“The recommended one-time $150,000 supplies and materials grant was based on a review of the school system’s request and one-time needs,” Lucas said via email Wednesday.

The county also budgeted an additional $30,000 toward the schools’ capital outlay per statute of proceeds from the county’s sales tax.

Stanly County’s allocation to the school system has incrementally increased annually over the last few years. The proposed budget equates the county’s financial contribution as $1,412 per student, or $34 more than the current fiscal year. The state’s allocation amounts to $5,000 per student.

Commissioner Peter Asciutto hinted to school leaders present that the system could generate funding through savings created by eliminating underutilized facilties and consolidation.

“I hope you guys take a serious look at redistricting,” Asciutto said.

Although four school board members also attended the budget presentation, none offered any additional dialogue about the disparity between the two budgets. A public hearing regarding the county’s budget is slated for June 9, followed by a series of workshops whereby commissioners could request changes in the budget.

“If the commissioners decide to allocate additional funding to the school system beyond what was recommended, then I will review several areas of the recommended budget for potential adjustments,” Lucas said.  

“These include, but are not limited to, facility maintenance, equipment and vehicle replacement, employee COLA (cost of living adjustment), etc.”

Lucas considers the deferred facility maintenance a critical part of his budget strategy. He recommends spending $125,000 toward facility repairs.

“I do have concerns about our deferred building maintenance, but we are slowly making progress via a pay-as-you-go approach versus taking on additional debt,” he said.

Lucas also prefers that the county bolster its support of Stanly Community College to promote economic development.

“I would also recommend the commissioners consider proportionately increasing the community college budget to maintain a level of fairness between our primary workforce development entities,” Lucas said.  

Next year’s budget calls for SCC to also receive a 1 percent increase in its current expense, or $12,678. Lucas is also proposing a $25,000 capital grant for energy efficiency.

Significant county expenditures include: an increase in health insurance premiums for county employees at $173,907, a 1 percent COLA increase of $156,000 for county employees and merit increases of $160,000.

The Board of Elections needs a laptop and a printer for a cost of $64,500. But the department also needs new voting machines, which figures to be a high-ticket item.

“I believe we can get another year out of the equipment,” Lucas said.

“We can wait until January 2016 and buy the voting machines and have them installed in time for the primary.”

To submit story ideas, contact Ritchie Starnes at (704) 982-2121 ext. 28 or email ritchie@stanlynewspress.com.

 

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