Stanly’s county manager presents proposed budget

Published 11:22 am Monday, May 30, 2022

Stanly County Manager Andy Lucas presented the opening draft of the county’s budget to county commissioners recently.

Lucas first said the tax rate will remain 61 cents per $100 valuation.

The requested budget from the county departments totaled more than $80 million, but the budget recommended by Lucas and county staff is just above $75 million.

Lucas said if the budget funded every requested amount, the tax rate would have had to be increased to 69 cents.

The proposed budget is 4.7 percent higher than last year’s, which Lucas noted was nearly half of the current rate of inflation at around 9.2 percent.

In the county manager’s proposed budget, no fund balance money will be appropriated for projects in the coming fiscal year. Lucas noted this fact by adding several of the projects the board has mentioned as priorities, including the new sheriff’s office and 911 center, would not be included until the 2023-24 fiscal year budget or possibly 2024-25.

“It’s important that we’re very careful and strategic of how we structure this budget so we don’t take on more than we can chew,” Lucas said. “Because if we do that, then you’re going to get stuck in the situation of having to raise taxes or cutting (county) services.”

The budget includes a 4.3 percent increase in the Stanly County Schools’ budget ($548,600), including a 15 percent increase to the teacher supplement grant funding. The debt service for Stanly Community College’s new trade center, at $775,000, is included in the proposed budget.

Lucas noted 85 percent, or $63.8 million, of the budget is for mandated services, with 78 percent ($58.7 million) in three categories: Public Safety ($21,520,515) Education Services ($19,948,846) and Heath and Human Services ($17,187,914). A total of 35 percent of the local dollars in the budget are allocated to education.

The budget will have 24 new county positions and will give employees a five percent cost-of-living adjustment. Detention officers will receive a raise by getting a grade increase, and the pay span will increase from 50 to 60 percent to allow those at the top grade of pay to receive an increase.

Lucas also in the budget recommended $75,000 be set aside for a “comprehensive classification and compensation study” of county positions. The county manager said Stanly has not done a study of this kind since 2008.

According to the budget transmittal letter included in the proposed budget, patrol vehicles for the Sheriff’s Office will be continually replaced, along with a replacement ambulance and $763,565 for a non-emergency EMS transport unit.

The budget also recommends additional Geographical Information System (GIS) personnel “to more effectively maintain the tax maps due to increased residential and commercial development.”

Additional hours of operation for the West Stanly Senior Center, including Grab-and-Go funding for senior meals, are also in the budget.

One major project funded by the proposed budget would be $2.5 million to replace the existing communications systems used by law enforcement, the CAD, JMS and RMS systems. The new system would be financed by the county.

In the budget letter, a statement regarding the local school system said, “the School System continues to request significantly more funding than available at the current tax rate…requests are outpacing the county’s ability to pay without re-prioritizing other spending or increasing available revenue. Please note, the school system does have significant Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding it can utilize to offset supplies and staffing over the next two fiscal years.”

The county manager’s proposed budget will be reviewed by commissioners at several budget workshops in June, with a budget expected to be approved possibly by June 21. A public hearing on the budget will take place at the June 6 commissioners’ meeting.

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored four times by the North Carolina Press Association.

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