Commissioners present 2018-19 budget
By Charles Curcio
Monday’s meeting of the Stanly County Board of Commissioners included a public hearing to allow citizens to express concerns about the county’s budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year.
At the previous meeting, County Manager Andy Lucas provided an overview for commissioners and the public on the budget with a slideshow presentation.
Lucas said the budget for next year does not include a tax rate increase, making it the 12th budget in a row in which taxes were not raised.
“If you look around us at neighboring counties, that’s a lot of stability for our businesses and citizens,” Lucas said.
The 2018-19 budget will show an increase in educational funding while also establishing a plan to increase employee retention and recruitment. Lucas also said the budget has board-approved year-one Capital Improvement Plan priorities along with techonology enhancements to improve the county’s efficiency for services.
County departments, along with Stanly County Schools and Stanly Community College, had submitted requests in budgets totalling $66.5 million, but the recommended budget is $2.4 million less, a 5-cent difference on the tax rate. Of that overall number, $44.5 million comes from county dollars, like property tax and sales tax.
The proposed budget is 1.4 percent more than last year’s budget, an increase of less than $1 million, which Lucas said “is fairly moderate and reasonable.”
Overall, the county’s assessed value is $4.83 billion, a 2.3 percent increase over 2017-18 ($108 million), which Lucas said was one of the larger increases in a non-revaluation year.
“We have seen significantly more growth in the residential sector than commercial, which we would like to see that trend change and see more commercial growth,” Lucas said.
The budget also includes $1.97 million in fund balance appropriations, two-thirds of which is tied in to one-time capital outlay and technology purchases.
SCS will get an increased in its budget in 2018-19 of $154,000 for regular current expenses (1.5 percent). The school system will also receive $500,000 from sales taxes for special current expenses, which is designated for economic development in the schools, Lucas said.
“We want to be able to clearly show where we are using those dollars,” Lucas said, adding on the state’s website, the money spent per pupil funding is current expense and does not account for the $500,000.
SCS will also receive a $241,000 teacher supplemental pay grant, including an additional $5,000 which Lucas said was consistent with SCS’s request.
The school system also gets an additional $300,000 in capital outlay, $100,000 of which Lucas said is growth in the sales tax base. The remainder has been recommeneded to be used from fund balance.
Overall, SCS will receive an increase of $455,000 in school funding from the county.
As far as SCC goes, the college gets an 1.5 percent increase ($18,600) from the county and $210,000 in capital outlay, an increase of $50,000, to help with deferred maintenance items.
Seventy-five percent of the $64.1 million budget, or $48.2 million, goes to three categories: education, health and human services and public safety. A total of 83 percent ($53.4 million) are for mandated services, like the jail, Department of Social Services, Sheriff’s Office, Education and debt.
Behind education (35.2 percent, $15.6 million), public safety gets the next highest percentage of county funds (25.5 percent, $11.3 million). Health and human services is third on the budget in percentage (13.5 percent, nearly $6 million).
With the turnover rate for county employees up to 10.6 percent last year from its previous mark of 8.9, Lucas said the county budget will include recommendations to support employees.
All county employees will receive a 1.5 percent cost of living adjustment along with a 3 percent grade/step adjustment for recruitment and retention.
Lucas said the 3 percent increase does not include paramedics, but added “we adjusted their salaries significantly when we went from 24 to 72, way more than 3 percent. I feel doing that again is not justified.”
“The number of hours they worked dramatically decreased and kept them whole at their salary so their hourly rates went up fairly significantly,” Lucas added.
The new budget will also continue the county’s wellness clinic for employees and health insurance gainsharing.
In the first year of the five-year Capital Improvement Plan, which was approved at the board’s annual retreat, part of those improvements includes site development for a fifth emergency radio tower, replacement of the roof of the old jail, roof repair at the Stanly Commons, HVAC work in the courthouse and GPS software integration.
“There are significant one-time items in the budget to address these items,” Lucas said.
Looking at revenue, Lucas said the numbers are pretty consistent with the previous year, with sales tax revenue and ad valorem property tax both increasing by just 0.6 percent.
Certain fees will be increased in the new budget, including an additional $5 in househould solid waste fees to $80. Other fees increasing include EMS, inspections, SCUSA, environmental health and health/dental.
“I don’t think any of (the fee increases) will cause a real concern. None of them are significant; they are fairly reasonable, I believe,” Lucas said.
Fire taxes will not increase next year, Lucas said, but a small increase of $4,200 will go to the first responders’ subsidy split among the various units.
“I do feel like we needed to increase that a little bit to help offset some of that cost,” Lucas said.
In terms of utiltities, which Lucas said are not taxes but part of enterprise funds, a 2-percent rate increase has been recommended. Lucas said Albemarle has been projected to not have a rate increase, while Norwood will go up 15 percent.
To be able to take water into smaller areas of the county, Lucas said the recommendation is to set aside $195,000 for those projects.
The proposed 2-percent rate increase in water translates to $23.03 for 2,000 gallons and $11.80 for each gallon after that, while sewer goes up to $8.19 per 1,000 gallons.
The base rate at the West Stanly Waste Water Treament Plant will also increase to $4.83, or 2 percent, for an additional $142,754, which Lucas said is tied into debt “as that rehabilitation project matures.”
In other enterprise funds, the total budget for the airport will increase 17.3 percent to $1.047 million, most of which is tied into one-time projects such as T-hanger repairs and lighting. One hanger uses for a shop will be converted back into a hanger while an unused office area will become the shop.
The 911 service’s budget will increase 4.3 percent or $17,923 to a total of $428,732, including $20,000 for a 911 fund balance appropriation and $42,079 to offset radio system debt service.
No one spoke at the budget public hearing on Monday, and the tentative date to adopt next year’s budget is set for Thursday.
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