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Kannapolis passes 2015-16 budget

By Susan Shinn

For the Salisbury Post

KANNAPOLIS — On Monday evening, the Kannapolis City Council unanimously passed its 2015-16 budget as presented — with the caveat that they’d revisit the idea to hire additional police officers and other needed staff positions once the General Assembly’s session has concluded.

The reason is simple: City Council doesn’t want to spend money that it doesn’t have, and it’s simply unknown at this point what sales tax redistribution and other local revenue impacts will mean for the budget, according to City Manager Mike Legg.

Legg noted that the adoption was last minute — it must be in place by midnight tonight. Still, there was extensive discussion on whether the city could afford to hire additional police officers.

Legg advocated caution — not just because of the action the General Assembly might take, but because council members have not had a chance to fully digest the results of a recent staffing study. Legg said he fully supported funding new positions, if the city could afford it.

Councilman Roger Haas agreed.

Adding personnel, Haas said, is like trying to answer that old joke, “Do you still beat your wife?”

“Would we like to add more personnel?” he said. “The answer is yes, but we always have to do that in the context of a budget.”

He added, “We need to proceed with caution until our revenue picture becomes clearer. We need to be prudent in our budget process at this time.”

Still, Councilman Ryan Dayvault advocated the option of adding more personnel.

“I’m looking at it in a more positive light, assuming the revenue will be there,” he said. “This would save us a step in advancing our staffing plan to the next level.”

Councilman Tom Kincaid said he agreed with both men.

“I’m happy we are adding three police officers,” he said. “The reason I asked for two more officers is because we send five officers to Rowan and Cabarrus counties every day to defend court cases. We need to take the burden off police officers having to work so many overtime hours.

“My first and foremost priority is public safety. I’ll fight for the police department and fire department and public works, because they are the most important departments helping citizens every day. I’m going to stick to my guns on this.”

“I think it’s a reasonable option,” Legg said. “I think either option works. You end at the same place.”

“This is a good, sound business decision,” Councilman Darrell Jackson said. “You don’t spend money before you get it.”

Ultimately, council voted to adopt the budget as originally presented, with an addendum to discuss other staffing recommendations once the General Assembly session concludes.

This satisfied Dayvault and Kincaid.

“I’ll still be here in three months,” Kincaid said after the meeting. “Stay tuned. The new city hall is fabulous, but we have to keep it in perspective. Public safety is my main priority. I won’t back off on this.”

In an almost anticlimactic move, City Council voted unanimously on a purchase agreement for the Downtown Kannapolis property acquisition. Because the final purchase price increased to $7,550,000 from $5,550,00, council closed and terminated a public hearing on the matter that they opened at their June 22 meeting. A new hearing is set for the July 13 meeting.

Despite the low-key vote, Mayor Darrell Hinnant was enthusiastic.

“This is a red-letter day for Kannapolis,” he said. “We have all worked very, very, very hard to make this happen. Everything is proceeding the right way.”

Council also voted unanimously to approve the city’s 2015-16 fee schedule.

Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.

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