Rowan County Commissioners approve 2018-19 budget

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 5, 2018

SALISBURY — The Rowan County Board of Commissioners has approved the county budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year.

The budget passed unanimously after a nearly two-hour budget work session and 20-minute public hearing on Monday afternoon and early evening, adding just over $229,000 to the $152 million in planned expenditures.

Requests for budget additions came from four of the five commissioners.

Mike Caskey was first, seeking to ensure that West End Plaza would be made available for an annual Veterans Day luncheon on Nov. 7.

Caskey also asked that a line item for employee appreciation be increased from $33,800 to an even $40,000.

“We don’t have to spend it,” he said. “It’s just to have a little bit more wiggle room in there. We’re talking about 904 employees plus whatever we approve. It’s just a couple dollars per person.”

Judy Klusman made the next requests: first, for an allocation to Meals on Wheels for $40,000, offset by a Home and Community Care Block Grant allocation increase of $55,152.

Klusman said she had been intending to request the money out of the general fund until she learned of the increase grant allocation.

“As we continue to see our county aging quite rapidly, I think it would be good for us to start putting an allotment in our budget for that,” she said.

Craig Pierce said he agreed that funding needs to be allocated to Rowan’s senior committee, but he wanted to wait for the Home and Community Care Block Grant Advisory Committee to evaluate the services being delivered by both Meals on Wheels and Rufty-Holmes Senior Center.

“If we’re going to start funding Meals on Wheels, we need to sit down and come up with some type of collaboration between the two groups to see if we can’t become more efficient,” Pierce said.

He said that there is some duplication of services between the two organizations. He said in some instances, the groups are working out of the same building and using the same caterer to prepare food.

“I just don’t see that this is an efficient way to go about doing this,” he said.

Cindy Fink, executive director for Meals on Wheels, spoke in support of the allocation during the public hearing.

“In 2019, Rowan County will have more folks over 60 than children. We are feeling the effects of this increase at Meals on Wheels,” she said. “… The dollars up front that help folks stay well and hopefully in their homes … are minimal compared to what it takes when they must go into a skilled nursing facility.”

After some back-and-forth and confusion, the commissioners decided to wait for recommendations from the grant advisory committee before proceeding with the allocation.

Klusman next requested a $3,500 appropriation for Saving Grace Farm, an equine-assisted therapeutic program for people with special needs.

Vice Chairman Jim Greene lobbied for the addition of two county members: a support and education staff person for the Soil and Water Conservation District and a maintenance mechanic for the parks department.

The positions would require $52,683 and $46,242, respectively, for pay and benefits.

The education specialist for the Soil and Water Conservation District would work to “educate the citizens in the wise use and conservation of our natural resources,” said district Chairman Bruce Miller during the public hearing.

Pierce ended the period of budget additions with a request for a $50,000 match to repair the Rufty-Holmes swimming pool.

Funds would be allocated dollar for dollar according to what the senior center itself generates, with a $50,000 maximum county contribution.

Pierce then proposed the addition of a part-time animal enforcement officer to work on weekends.

Currently, he said there is only one weekend employee, increasing the length in response times for calls.

The commissioners agreed that the new staff member is needed throughout the county.

“I’m usually pretty tight-fisted, especially with animal control,” said Greene. “But I can see that they have a real tough time on the weekends.”

The position will cost $15,245.

With the budget approved, pending changes will go through budget adjustments in regular commissioner meetings.

The board could yet allocate funds for Meals on Wheels and has plans to allocate two adult care social workers in the place of two other vacant positions.

Leslie Heidrick, the county’s finance director, said these changes should be minimal.