County tax rate stays the same, several departments increase fees in proposed budget

Published 12:10 am Saturday, May 25, 2024

SALISBURY — County Manager Aaron Church formally presented the proposed budget to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners during its meeting on Monday. Included in the budget are several proposed tax increases for fire districts, fee changes throughout some county departments and new positions in the Department of Social Services to assist with duties added by Medicaid expansion.

While the property tax rate for the county government is the same as the past year, the proposed budget does include increases for three fire districts in the county. Miller’s Ferry has proposed an increase from $0.0875 to $0.11, or $0.0225. Rockwell Rural has proposed an increase from $0.09 to $0.0995, or $0.0095. Rowan-Iredell has proposed an increase of $0.06 to $0.082, or $0.022.

Multiple fee schedules for departments throughout the county government were also updated to better match nearby, comparable counties, said Church.

“All the departments do a good job of comparing with other counties when they submit the budget. None of our fees are out of line from other counties. The recommended fees, and even the new recommended fees, are normally on the low side when you look at other counties,” said Church.

Departments with proposed increases are the building inspection, emergency services, planning, parks and recreation, animal services and environmental management departments.

Emergency service fee increases include raises in the fees for all types of EMS transportation, ranging from an approximately $40 increase for basic life support non-emergency transport, bringing it up to $399.12, to an approximately $135 increase for specialty care transport, bringing it up to $1,297.13. Also included are raises to stand-by services for both unit and crew rates and employee rates.

Both the planning department and building inspections have proposed new fees for services offered by the department. The planning department has asked for residential zoning permits to have a fee of $25 per application and for non-residential zoning permits to have a fee of $50 per application. Building inspections introduced a 24/7 expedited plan review fee of $2,500 per application.

On the lower end of the increases, parks and recreation proposed increases to ticket prices, camping fees and gem mine prices at Dan Nicholas Park. Animal services introduced a $5 fee for heartworm testing. Environmental management raised all tipping fees by $2 per ton for waste disposal.

The Department of Social Services has also requested that the commissioners approve funding for 20 new positions to help assist the department with Medicaid expansion, 19 income maintenance caseworkers with salaries of $49,653 and one income maintenance supervisor with a salary of $60,355. With benefits and equipment costs added on, the new caseworkers would require a budget of $1,614,240 and the supervisor would require a budget of $98,934. Church’s proposed budget allows for funding for six caseworker positions at $509,760 and full funding for the supervisor position.

The proposed budget also includes a four percent increase to all county employee’s salary for cost of living adjustments. Two percent will be effective on July 1, 2024, and the remaining two percent will be effective on Jan. 1, 2025.

For education, Church reported during the meeting that the proposed budget recommends a 9.4 percent increase in per-pupil spending, bringing it up to $2,329. Those numbers are based on state projections that Rowan-Salisbury Schools will lose 186 students and Kannapolis City Schools will gain 37 students and county projections that local charter schools will gain 353 students.

Also included in the proposed budget are several large-scale capital items. The commissioners have approved the remodeling of the Crawford Building, located at 310 N. Main St., to allow for several government departments to move into the 13,122-square-foot facility. The remodeling has $4.85 million included in the proposed budget. Approximately $3.5 million has been proposed to bring all of the Rowan County parks into compliance with the American Disability Act.

The commissioners voted to set the public hearing for the proposed budget for 6 p.m. on June 24. All 800 pages of the budget are available to the public for viewing on the county’s website.