County commissioners delay passage of 2016-2017 budget

Published 2:19 pm Monday, June 6, 2016

By Josh Bergeron

SALISBURY — After making a half dozen changes on Monday, Rowan County commissioners agreed to delay passage of the 2016-2017 budget until a June 20 meeting.

The commissioners’ decision came during a work session at noon. Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds initially made the suggestion. After a number of changes were proposed to the budget, other commissioners agreed with Edds’ suggestion. However, no formal vote was held.

At 5:30 p.m. today, commissioners will hold a public hearing on the budget, which includes more than $140 million in expenditures from the general fund. Commissioners could have approved the budget immediately following the public hearing, but the informal agreement suggests they won’t. The public hearing will be in the county’s administration building — located at 130 W. Innes St.

Changes discussed during commissioners’ work session included: a 1.5 percent pay increase for County Manager Aaron Church and Assistant County Manager Leslie Heidrick, partnering with the city of Salisbury to build a dog park; providing additional money to the Rowan County Rescue Squad to enable at least one staff member to always be on duty; using a new sales tax on services to pay for membership in a Charlotte economic development group; paying for a new, domestic violence position in the district attorney’s office; and hiring an investigator in the Sheriff’s Office to specifically focus on drug cases.

The changes would result in more than $150,000 in new expenses in the 2016-2017 budget. County Manager Aaron Church said the changes wouldn’t be a significant financial burden and could be accomplished without a tax increase.

A number of the additions resulted in questions from commissioners about the feasibility of the change.

Commissioner Craig Pierce, for example, proposed allocating $40,000 to help build a dog park at the corner of Grove Street and Mahaley Avenue. Edds and Commissioner Judy Klusman said the county shouldn’t try and build a new park when others are already trying to build one next to the Salisbury Civic Center. Pierce asked commissioners to include it in 2016-2017 budget as a placeholder, and commissioners agreed.

When discussing the new Sheriff’s Office investigator, Commissioners Vice Chairman Jim Greene said he wanted to see how useful the position would actually be. Greene said he wouldn’t vote against adding the new position, but wanted more information before voting on the final budget.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246