Cleveland passes budget, retains tax rate

Published 12:10 am Thursday, June 27, 2024

CLEVELAND — During a meeting on Monday, Cleveland’s Board of Commissioners officially approved the budget for the upcoming fiscal year without raising the current tax rate of $0.30 per $100 valuation.

The budget totals $2,500,529 for all town operations, capital improvements and debt service requirements. That total represents a 3.77 percent increase over last year’s budget. That number is reached through property taxes and water and sewer fees.

That increase is mainly due to salary raises from both cost of living adjustments and certification approval, but the budget’s operation portion also increased $20,842 over last year’s total to $904,566 this year.

At the adopted rate of $0.30 per $100 a homeowner with a $200,000 would owe $600 for the year.

One cent on the property tax rate in Cleveland generates $25,486. Total revenue from property is estimated to total $736,083.

Projected gross sales tax revenues are anticipated to total approximately $260,000, which represents 15 percent of Cleveland’s general fund revenues.

Cleveland currently has 12 full-time employees and eight part-time employees. A memo to the board from Finance Officer Rebekah Newsome stated: “There needs to be balance on the town’s ability to retain and recruit quality employees in comparison to being competitive with the surrounding labor market. It is understood that the town has not fully assessed its organization and conducted and implemented a related ‘Classification and Pay Study.’ This is something that may be considered during the FY 2025-26 budget process.”

Comparing Cleveland to other Rowan County municipalities is not quite apples to apples, because unlike places such as Salisbury, Spencer or China Grove, Cleveland does not have its own fire department. The Cleveland Community Volunteer Fire Department extends beyond Cleveland’s town limits, but does encompass the town’s residents. Those in that district are subject to a tax of $0.09 per $100 valuation.

When added to the town’s property tax rate, which would be $0.39 per $100, taxpayers in Cleveland are still looking at a lower rate than their Rowan County counterparts. Most of Cleveland’s property tax base pulls from commercial (74 percent) which also contrasts from other municipalities in Rowan County. The largest part of that tax base is the Daimler Truck North America Cleveland plant.

As a breakdown of expenditures, the Cleveland Police Department receives the greatest portion (42 percent).

Administration ranks second at 16.1 percent or $285,697. Public works rounds out the top three at 14.6 percent or $258,000. The budget includes funding for various facility improvements and the purchase of a lawn mower and street blower.

Notes from other departments:

  • Parks and Recreation accounts for $118,850 (6.7 percent). This year, some of that budget will be designated to add playground equipment at both park locations in town.
  • Streets accounts for $120,000 (6.8 percent). This year, those funds will be used for right of way clearing as well as various street paving projects including: Entrance to Johnstone Road, Hall Street, Wood Street, Spenwood Street and East Foard Street.

Exploring expenditures by category such as pay offers additional insight.

Personnel in Cleveland constitutes 53 percent of the upcoming budget. Personnel expenditures includes salaries, FICA, group insurance, retirement, incentive bonuses and other benefits for the 20-man staff.

The budget as it was adopted on Monday included a 4 percent cost of living adjustment to base pay.

“As one of 880 cities, town, counties and local commissions that participate in the North Carolina Local Government Employee’s Retirement System, FY 2024-25 contribution rate increased to 13.85 percent for this fiscal year,” Newsome’s memo said. “For law enforcement offices, this contribution rate increased to 15.1 percent. Health insurance costs are anticipated to increase beginning in July 2024 by 3.84 percent.

Capital outlay expenditures represent 14.5 percent of the budget, which is less than last year’s 19/4 percent. However, last year’s increase was attributed to “deferred capital needs due to prior year COVID-19 impacts.”

Operating expenditures are another large portion when taken together. They include all costs besides personnel, capital outlay and debt service. This year’s budget allocated $563,366 (31.7 percent) for these expenses.