Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
Salisbury Post
The Rowan County Board of County Commissioners is set to adopt a $127.4 million budget this evening.
The budget will provide record spending in many areas of county government .
The budget is built on property tax rate of $59.5 cents per $100 of assessed value, a net increase of 2 cents following countywide revaluation. The current tax rate is 63 cents.
Commissioners have agreed to increase school spending to $1,477 per pupil, the most recent state average.
Earlier this month commissioners agreed to add an extra $500,000 for technology.
And commissioners will continue the classroom supply fund, which reimburses teachers up to $250 for classroom supplies.
Decade of growth
The impact of revaluation and growth in the past decade shows in the overall budget.
Although the tax rate of 59.5 cents will be the lowest seen on tax bills in recent memory, it will bring a record amount of money into the county’s coffers.
In a decade, the county’s overall budget will have increased by almost 40 percent, from $78 million in 1998 to $127.5 million for the 2008 budget.
The property tax rate in 1998 was 633/4 cents per $100 of value.
During the same 10 year period, the county’s tax base grew by 96 percent ó from $5.7 billion to the current $11.2 billion.
While most areas of county government have seen spending increase by 30 to 40 percent, human services and education spending have boomed.
Spending for human services, which includes health, mental health, senior services and social services, has increased by 78 percent ó going from $19.7 million in 1998 to $35.1 million in the coming year. Much of the spending is mandated by the state, including the county’s share of Medicaid, the health coverage for low-income and uninsured people.
Spending for education has increased 47 percent, from $20 million in 1998 to $38 million for the coming year. That includes funding for Rowan-Salisbury Schools, Rowan students in the Kannapolis City Schools and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.
The county’s debt payments ó mostly for schools ó have increased by 44 percent, going from $7.9 million a decade ago to $14.2 million..
Meanwhile, the county’s savings, or fund balance, has also grown dramatically, from $15 million in 1998 to $41 million for 2008.
Other areas of county government have grown at a slower rate.
Public safety, which includes the sheriff’s department, jail, emergency services, emergency communications and animal control, will cost taxpayers $18.7 million in the coming year. That’s a 39 percent increase from the $11.4 million in 1998.
General government costs, which includes the manager, administration, tax, register of deeds, court, and public buildings, grew at almost the same rate as public safety ó 38 percent.
General government spending in 1998 totaled $7.1 million. The cost for the year starting July 1 is $11.6 million.
Budget adoption
County commissioners are set to adopt a series of six budget ordinances, one for each fund the county operates through.
The general fund, by far the largest, is the county’s operating budget.
Commissioners will also adopt the fire district fund budget, establishing the tax for each district.
Enochville Fire & Rescue is the only department seeking a tax increase this year. Commissioners have agreed to a 2-cent tax hike.
Fire departments will collect and spend $3.2 million.
Other funds and budgets:
– Emergency telephone fund will collect and spent $680,000. Revenue comes from the .65-cent tax on monthly telephone bills.
– Risk management fund, the county’s self-insurance program for workmen’s comp and liability ó $1.2 million;
– Landfill fund ó revenue and expenditures of $4.6 million.
– Sports authority fund for the operation of Fieldcrest-Cannon Stadium, revenue and expenditures of $289,000.
– Airport fund, newly created to operate the county airport outside the general fund. Revenue and expenditures of $3.6 million. Much of the airport funding comes from federal and state grants.
The Rowan County Board of Commissioners meets at 7 tonight in the J. Newton Cohen Sr. Meeting Room, County Administrative Offices, 130 W. Innes St.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254 or