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Rowan County’s proposed budget keeps tax rate flat, increases education funding

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Rowan County residents would not see a tax increase under the budget presented Monday by County Manager Aaron Church.

During a county Board of Commissioners meeting, Church presented a budget that spends $149.3 million, an 1.8 percent increase over this year. But because of an increase in tax revenue, the tax rate would remain at 66.25 cents per $100 in valuation.

The commissioners received the proposed budget for the first time Monday and did not extensively discuss the document. They scheduled a budget workshop at 1 p.m and a public hearing at 6 p.m on June 5. Both will be held in the county administration building, 130 W. Innes St. Both will be open to the public.

As proposed, the budget would slightly increase money allocated to Rowan-Salisbury Schools, Kannapolis City Schools and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. None of the increases, however, would match requests from the RSS school system.

Church’s proposed budget includes a $1 million air conditioning unit for the downtown building that includes the courthouse and jail; $345,000 for a video and camera system for evidence presentation and inmate appearances in court; $262,000 for a roof at the county’s office building at 402 N. Main St.; and a tracking and training system for ambulances.

The budget also includes a 2.5 percent cost-of-living raise for county workers.

In compliance with state law, the budget is balanced. It uses $9.8 million from the fund balance, which is partially a savings account. That amount is nearly identical to the amount budgeted for the current year.

In his budget presentation, Church highlighted only major, new expenses.

Rowan-Salisbury Schools requested a nearly 20 percent increase in funding for the coming fiscal year, which starts July 1. Church’s proposed budget funds a 2 percent increase or $803,192 more than the system received in the current budget. The increase would allow for increases in teacher, principal and assistant principal pay, Church said.

The Kannapolis School System requested a 228 percent increase in its funding. The county funded only a 2.3 percent increase.

Noting the massive gap between the request and what the county could fund, Church said he and Finance Director Leslie Heidrick plan to meet with Kannapolis school officials because the amount requested was so large.

If Church’s budget is approved, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College would see an 8 percent increase in funding from Rowan County. Funding for charter schools would increase by 24 percent.

In addition to schools, Church told the commissioners about the most significant new expenditures.

The $1 million air conditioning unit will be placed on the roof of the building that contains the courthouse and jail. If it isn’t replaced soon, the cost of cooling the jail would become “very, very expensive,” Church said.

He said the courthouse video system has been requested by judges, District Attorney Brandy Cook and the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office. The system would be used to present evidence. Inmates would not have to be transported from the jail to the courthouse for court appearances, Church said.

He said the video system would “make for a much easier workflow.”

The roof at 402 N. Main St. would be among the last such projects, he said. Next year, commissioners will need to replace the roof on the county administration building, he said.

Another project Church mentioned is known as “Zoll.” He said there’s been a relatively discreet pilot program ongoing to monitor driving patterns of ambulance drivers who work for Rowan County Emergency Medical Services. Few people knew about the project, Church said.

Church proposes to expand the program to all EMS ambulances, which would provide a range of data that would be used to evaluate employee performance.

In other business from Monday’s commissioners meeting:

• The board approved a new flat fee for animal adoptions by registered rescue groups.

The flat fee will be $35 and include spaying or neuterings. Currently, registered rescue groups are charged $15 for adoptions, but that does not include the costs of spaying or neutering.

The change comes as the Rowan County Animal Shelter plans to start in-house spaying or neutering for all animals in mid-June.

Currently, rescue groups and individuals must spay or neuter animals at outside clinics or animal hospitals.

• Commissioners discussed the ongoing prayer lawsuit with attorneys in closed session.

• Commissioners approved a capital projects ordinance that allows the county to receive and spend money for construction of a water line in the Dukeville area.

The water line, once built, will serve more than 170 residences in the area dealing with concerns about water quality and coal ash. County commissioners also hope to lure an economic development project to the area.

The total cost of the water line is projected to be $5.8 million, agenda documents state. Of that total, $5.31 million would be reimbursed by Duke Energy, as required by state law. The remaining $500,000 would be paid for by Rowan County.

The county portion represents an increase in the diameter of the largest part of the water line from 6 inches to 12 inches.

• Commissioners approved two agreements with the city of Salisbury.

One will allow Rowan County to purchase water from the city for the Dukeville water line. The second would hire Salisbury-Rowan Utilities to operate the Dukeville water line. Rowan County would pay Salisbury-Rowan Utilities $4,500 per month as a basic fee for operating costs.

• The commissioners approved the rezoning of a 1-acre parcel to allow for a recycling center and solid waste site. The land is next to an existing recycling site on Julian Road.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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