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Rowan County audit finds financial gains

SALISBURY — The Rowan County commissioners received encouraging news Monday night.

It came from the findings in the annual financial report that showed Rowan’s financial position improved in the 2017 fiscal year.

The fiscal year started July 1, 2016, and ended June 30, 2017.

Meg Blue of Martin Starnes and Associates presented the findings at Monday night’s commissioners meeting.

From 2016 to 2017, the county’s general fund revenue increased roughly $5 million, a 4 percent change. Total general fund revenue in 2017 was $140.2 million.

Expenditures saw a greater jump, climbing from $131.5 million to $138.4, a 6 percent change.

This, Blue said, was mainly because of an increase in education and public safety expenses. The county spent just over $43 million on education in 2017, up 6.6 percent from 2016.

According to the report, Rowan County is responsible for providing capital funding for schools, and it has chosen to meet that obligation by issuing general obligation and installment purchase debt.

Because the capital assets acquired by these debts go to the school system, the county incurs a liability without a corresponding increase in assets. Therefore, Rowan’s end-of-year balance of outstanding school-related debt was $43.3 million.

Public safety, the county’s third-largest expenditure, was up 10.9 percent at $28.7 million.

Despite these growing expenses, the county still came out ahead in its fund balance, or savings account.

The available fund balance increased $2.7 million from 2016, with a total just over $35 million. The county’s unassigned fund balance — money not restricted, committed or otherwise assigned — is $18.6 million.

Blue also reported marked growth in countywide enterprise funds. Net income from the landfill increased 40 percent, from $360,943 to $540,049.

Completed airport construction also brought increased net income. In 2016, the airport ended the year with a loss of $384,988. This year, it brought in $1.1 million.

In other business at Monday’s meeting:

• The commissioners approved a rezoning of a parcel off Shinn Farm Road.

The 12.69-acre property is owned by Cashe Properties LLC of Mooresville. The owners are seeking to rezone the property from rural agricultural to industrial-commercial.

Residents neighboring the property spoke against the rezoning, saying it would interrupt green space and increase traffic in the area.

Commissioners said they approved the request because the rezoning is consistent with that of surrounding property, as the parcel was meant to adjoin an existing 85-acre industrial district in the area.

• The commissioners heard a presentation from the Grow Rowan marketing team.

Many professionals spoke in support of a unified marketing effort to combat unwarranted negativity about the county. Speakers were Paula Dibley of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, James Meacham of the Tourism Development Authority, Dari Caldwell of Novant Health, Joyce Caron-Mercier of Mercier Marketing, Mikey Wetzel of Go Burrito, Mandy Mills of Rowan-Salisbury Schools, Mayor Lee Withers of China Grove, Rod Crider of the Rowan Economic Development Commission, and Mike Miller of Miller Davis Agency.

The group requested that the county allocate $80,000 to the marketing campaign, to be handled through the Rowan County Economic Development Commission. The request was tabled until the commissioners are presented a budget for the request.

• The commissioners heard a presentation about rural internet dead spots.

Randy Cress, chief information officer for the county, found that roughly 6 percent of Rowan’s rural residents do not have internet access. He presented research for ways to decrease this number, including federal grant funding.

Cress said state law prohibits the county from owning, operating or investing in broadband service to the public.

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