Tax increase for RCCC bond split

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 22, 2011

By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — County commissioners agreed Monday to split financing of the $12 million community college bond, allowing the county to raise the property tax rate by a quarter cent in the next year.
“A quarter cent in fiscal year 2012 is as palatable as can be, considering the 1.25 cent tax increase approved by voters,” said Chad Mitchell, chairman of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.
To fund the college bond, the county would raise the property tax rate by a quarter cent in the fiscal year beginning July 1, and an additional half cent in each of the next two fiscal years. This would stretch out the proposed 1.25 cent increase over three years.
The county’s current property tax rate is 59.5 cents per $100 of assessed value.
Finance Director Leslie Heidrick told the board she contacted officials from the Local Government Commission to discuss financing the $12 million bond for Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and another $10 million to $12 million for communications equipment.
Heidrick said that a local government can borrow no more than $10 million in a calendar year to be bank qualified and earn a better interest rate.
“The recommendation back from the LGC was to do $10 million for the communications project in this calendar year,” Heidrick said. “In January 2012, we would do $6 million for the community college, and the following January, we would do the remaining $6 million.”
Communications equipment already is funded through a quarter cent sales tax previously approved by voters.
Commissioner Jim Sides said the board in 2013 could decide if it wants to raise taxes that last half cent, which it wouldn’t need to if additional revenue would cover debt-service payments.
The $12 million bond will pay for safety and accessibility improvements to the campus, a new two-story addition for Allied Health programs and new fire training grounds. A majority of voters passed the bond referendum in November.
Heidrick said according to the spending schedule provided by the community college, it plans to complete about $1 million of work by the end of the year. Rowan County would front that money and reimburse itself once it borrows the first $6 million.
Commissioner Raymond Coltrain made a motion to approve a declaration of official intent to reimburse expenditures. He asked if the college could proceed with the projects on schedule, and Heidrick said it could.
Chairman Chad Mitchell asked that the schedule be attached to the declaration to make it clear that the county expects money to be spent according to that timeline. Coltrain agreed to amend his motion.
Sides said he isn’t opposed to the projects but thinks only the work to improve safety and ADA compliance needs to be done immediately.
“I have reservations related to the new building and fire training center, and my biggest reservation is doing all three projects at one time,” Sides said.
Commissioner Carl Ford said he wasn’t comfortable with the wording of the declaration because it says the maximum amount of debt incurred “is expected to be” $12 million. He and Sides both said it should read “no more than” $12 million.
The motion was approved 4-1, with Sides dissenting. Ford abstained from the vote, so he was automatically counted in the affirmative.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.