Education projects significant factors in deciding recommended tax rate for 2024

Published 12:09 am Thursday, May 18, 2023

SALISBURY — Speaking on Tuesday, a day after the Rowan County Board of Commissioners heard the proposed 58-cent tax rate for fiscal year 2024, Commissioner Greg Edds said he thought the new rate was a “strong compromise” for residents.

Edds brought up two major projects the county has to fund that deal with improving education: the construction of both the new school that will combine Knox Middle School with Overton Elementary, and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s innovation complex that will include multiple facilities.

According to County Manager Aaron Church, both projects play a large role in why the county couldn’t lower next year’s tax rate to the revenue-neutral rate of 52.59 cents per $100 valuation, something some residents called for after receiving their property revaluation notices earlier this year and seeing their property taxes increase.

“It’s a big tax rate reduction,” said Edds. “I was hoping to get down to the 50s. When you consider now we’ve got a lot of education funding that’s coming online and to get us to 58 and have all that be funded (as well), it’s pretty good.”

In 2020, voters passed a $45 million bond referendum that will provide funding for the RCCC innovation complex, but it was projected to result in a 3-cent property tax increase countywide. The bond issue will pay for a new facility for Rowan County Early College, a new automotive, welding and CNC machining space, and a fire decontamination facility.

As far as construction plans for the new Knox-Overton school, the county has budgeted $55 million with an additional debt service that has to be paid over 15 years.

Both of these projects combine to increase property taxes in the county to approximately 5 cents. If these projects weren’t in the works, then the tax rate could have been lowered to 53 cents, but Church’s budget proposal recommends moving forward with both.

Similarly, Edds said both projects would be good for the county. He also emphasized rising inflation nationwide as having an effect on the tax rate not being lowered to revenue netural.

“I don’t think there’s anyone who ever expected revenue-neutral when you’re looking at about 20 percent inflation over the past three years, so it just wasn’t realistic to consider. The fact that he (Church) got it down as low as he did, I think is a pretty strong compromise,” Edds said.

Other capital projects to be funded that also impact the recommended tax rate are construction of a new roof for the Rowan County Agriculture Building, renovations of a tennis court and playground at Dan Nicholas Park, new carpet for the South Rowan Regional Library and setting up softwares for transit scheduling and information technology storage. Altogether, the proposed budgeted recommends $1.7 million for these projects.

Residents are invited to the June 19 commissioners’ meeting at 6 p.m. where a public hearing will be conducted to receive public comment on the proposed budget.