Commissioners approve budget that utilizes COVID-19 funding, maintains tax rate
Published 12:04 am Thursday, June 23, 2022
SALISBURY — After allocating $432,992 in contingency funding, the Rowan County Board of Commissioners on Monday night approved a 2022-23 fiscal year budget that utilizes COVID-19 relief funding to maintain the current property tax rate and allows for major expenditures.
The total general fund budget is $187.78 million, which is a $14.56 million or 8.41% increase over the current budget. County Manager Aaron Church is recommending a $9.3 million appropriation from the county’s fund balance to balance the budget, which is $3.1 million less than last year’s approved fund balance appropriation of $12.4 million, a 24.99% decrease.
The budget will go into effect July 1.
The tax rate will remain the same at 65.75 cents per $100 valuation.
Due to the rising costs of goods and services, the budget includes a 9.4% cost of living adjustment (COLA) for county employees. If the Consumer Price Index exceeds 9.99% over the past year in November, an additional 1.6% COLA will be effective Jan. 1.
The budget spends $14.67 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding. Along with investments in water, sewer, broadband and public health, those funds will be used as revenue replacement to free up money to cover a number of expenditures, including $2.1 million bond issuance for Rowan-Cabarrus Community College to build new facilities, about $3.5 million in principal and interest for $55 million in debt for Rowan-Salisbury Schools, $1.5 million for an increase in operating expenses for RSS and about $881,000 in principal and interest for an agricultural center at West End Plaza.
The budget projects sales tax revenue to be $33.7 million, a $4 million or 13.57% increase over the 2021-22 budget. In his budget message, Church warned that economic conditions could dampen those positive projections.
The budget includes $2.3 million for one-time capital items. The largest capital purchase is $750,000 for a roof replacement at Rowan County Facilities. There is also $430,000 for the animal shelter road, $450,000 for the library roof and $250,000 for information technology storage.
The budget includes $650,000 in contingency funding, most of which was allocated by commissioners before the budget was approved Monday night. Commissioner Craig Pierce requested using $50,038 to increase the total allotment for Meals on Wheels from $72,000 to $125,000. Meals on Wheels provides nutrition meals to homebound seniors.
“I think they do an excellent job,” he said. “They service a lot of people that can’t get out to shop or get food. They also do a welfare check on everybody everyday to make sure that they haven’t fallen or haven’t had some health issues to keep them from being able to get out and I think that’s important.”
Commissioner Judy Klusman supported designating $204,476 for a new attorney and social work supervisor for the Department of Social Services. The new attorney will help reduce the department’s caseload, assist the lead attorney in giving legal counsel to child protective service investigators, advise on Medicaid matters and allow the department to prosecute and drive civil action against people who obtain benefits fraudulently. The social work supervisor would help respond to “increasing demand” of reports of adult abuse, neglect and exploitation,” Department of Social Service Board Chair Douglas Smith told commissioners.
The county will be reimbursed with state and federal funds for half of the attorney’s $132,938 salary and will be reimbursed for most of the supervisor’s salary.
Commissioner Mike Caskey asked to earmark $45,000 to add a 2% salary increase to the base pay of county employees who are veterans or currently serving in the U.S. military. The 2% salary supplement will match what the county pays to employees who are college graduates.
“It’s a benefit they’ve earned,” he said.
The board also designated $27,000 for a part-time veterans service staff position to be a full-time position starting on Oct. 1. Additionally, the board earmarked $5,630 to upgrade a sergeant position to lieutenant at the Rowan County Detention Center.
Commissioners earmarked $100,848 for two new tele-communicators for the 911 division.
In addition to the positions added through contingency allocations, the budget creates five new positions at a cost of $508,818, including three for animal services, one planner and a building inspector.
With those allocations, the budget passed includes $217,008 in undesignated contingency funding. That money will be reserved in case it is needed for an unforeseen reason.
In passing the budget, the board also approved new tax rates for several fire departments in the county. The taxes are levied on property owners in each fire district. East Gold Hill Fire Department’s tax rate will increase from 8 cents to 9 cents for $100 valuation. Liberty’s rate will jump from 5.37 cents to 8 cents per $100 valuation. Union will increase its rate from 3.5 cents to 5.5 cents per $100 valuation. Woodleaf’s rate will go from 6.5 cents to 7.5 cents per $100 valuation.
In other meeting business:
• Commissioners approved establishing St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and Cemetery as a Rowan County historic landmark. Originally built in 1840, the property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
• The board renewed several Rowan County ambulance franchises, which is required every three years. The county renewed franchises for Med Trans Corporation, American TransMed, Rowan County Rescue Squad, Providence Ambulance and the Kannapolis Fire Department. Additionally, commissioners granted a new franchise to Reliance Medical Transport. The renewal period will be from July 1 to June 30, 2023.