County manager says he warned of hike last year

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 2, 2014

Rowan County Manager Gary Page says he’ll be proposing a property tax increase for the upcoming fiscal year.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise, since he warned county commissioners last year that if they didn’t raise taxes then, “that it was just going to be pushing it out. … That we’d have to go up this year,” he said Friday.
Page said the recommended increase “could be 3 cents, it could be a little more” depending on what the county has to fund.
Commissioners will hold a budget work session Monday after their regular meeting, which is set to start at 1 p.m. at the Rowan County Administration Building, 130 W. Innes St.
With a fairly light agenda, the board should get to the budget quickly. Page said the focus of this session will be the five commissioners each setting out their priorities for the fiscal year starting July 1.
“I know the things we need to do for next year. My department heads know the things they need to do,” Page said. “Monday is really a chance for commissioners to say, ‘Here are two or three goals.’ ”
Page said he’ll get department heads’ budget requests by April 1 and present a budget to the county board in mid-May. Commissioners will hold a public hearing, and probably more work sessions, before adopting the budget in June.
The size of a proposed property tax increase, Page said, will depend on a number of factors, including whether commissioners want to give county employees raises and the outcome of potential litigation over the school system’s budget.
A mediator said Friday he hadn’t ruled on the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education’s request to declare an impasse in negotiations with the county, which would allow the school board to file a lawsuit.
The school board wants $40 million to fund several capital projects, while commissioners have offered $28.5 million.
Even without that hanging over county officials’ heads, commissioners Chairman Jim Sides acknowledged last year that while he hasn’t supported a tax increase since his first election in 2004, “next year I may not be able to take that position.”
Before the budget work session Monday, commissioners will consider finalizing incentives for Gildan’s planned expansion, funding for additional parking at Rufty Holmes Senior Center, a conditional use permit to build a 5 megawatt solar energy system in the 1300 block of Redmon Road and board appointments.