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County gives partial agreement to fire tax hikes

Also Monday:

Rowan County Board of Commissioners approved tax increases of 0.5 cents in the Cleveland fire district (out of 2 cents requested), 0.5 cents in the Mount Mitchell district (out of 3 cents requested) and 1 cent in the Enochville district.
Vice Chairman Craig Pierce said the county’s other fire districts have a tax rate below 8 cents, but this would push Cleveland (from 6.61 cents to 8.61 cents per $100 valuation) and Mount Mitchell (from 5.26 to 8.26 cents per $100 valuation) above that threshold.
Pierce said Mount Mitchell also receives funding from Cabarrus County. Enochville has been maintaining its tax rate at 6 cents even when it lost its own funding from Cabarrus.
Enochville would receive its entire requested increase from 6 cents to 7 cents, in order to repair and replace aging equipment.
The decisions the board made Monday are not final until it officially votes on its budget, which it expects to do at a June 17 meeting.
Commissioners also asked county staff to bring back more information about the cost of an early retirement incentive program proposed by Pierce. Staff members said 10 or 11 employees would be eligible for this program, which would only be available in the last six months of 2013.
Pierce also made a motion to implement the last 1 cent of the 1.25 tax increase approved by voters in November 2010 to pay for capital needs at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.
No other commissioners would second it.
Pierce said he’s thankful that the past and current boards have not increased taxes any more to this point, but debt service has reached more than $1 million while the county’s fund balance drops.
Also at Monday’s meeting, county commissioners:
• Agreed to keep a recommended $525,000 in the budget for scaled employee raises, but to base them on amount of pay instead of years of service — the higher the pay, the lower the percentage.
• Agreed unanimously to allow the county’s animal control department to bring in volunteers to clean the animal shelter once a week. The estimated $7,000 in annual savings could be used to build concrete partitions to reduce the spread of parvo.
The board also voted to allocate $10,000 to a pilot program to euthanize older, docile animals using a lethal injection method rather than the current carbon monoxide chambers.
• Approved by a 4-1 vote the restoration of $13,212 in previously cut funding to RowanWorks Economic Development, plus an additional $30,000 earmarked for a new position called an existing industry coordinator.
Sides dissented, saying the organization could use some of the four months’ worth of money it has in reserve.

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