Wednesday June 17, 2020

Approved County budget addresses school needs, service demand

Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners on Monday approved the fiscal year 2021 (FY21) general fund budget of $276 million.

The budget maintains the ad valorem tax rate of 74 cents per $100 of property value. For owners of a $210,000 house (the median single-family assessed home value in Cabarrus), that equates to $1,554 a year in County property tax.

COVID-19 has hurt property and sales tax—the County’s major revenue sources.

The County projects sales tax to drop 17% from FY20 to FY21. Lower collection rates and fewer car purchases mean property tax will fall short of predictions, despite a 17% increase in commercial and residential real property due to the 2020 revaluation.

At the same time, the County is addressing growing demand for services, particularly human services and public health.

The FY21 budget will focus new funding on:

  • Education (Nearly half—42%—of the general fund budget supports schools)
  • Quality-of-life services
  • County workforce
  • Essential building projects

Outside the general fund, the County is responsible for administration of Cabarrus Arena and Events Center, Landfill Property, 911 Emergency Telephone and Health Insurance funds. The grand total of all funds is $362 million.

EDUCATION

  • Increased educator pay supplements – Includes funds for a 0.5% increase in County-paid supplements to educators employed by the Cabarrus County and Kannapolis City school districts. With this year’s increase to the County-paid portion, the proposed FY21 pay supplement for Cabarrus County Schools will be 10% (includes a 0.5% increase from the Cabarrus County Schools District) and Kannapolis City Schools will be 7%. Because the state pays teachers consistently across the state, the local supplement helps attract and retain teachers.
  • Open/operate new schools – Includes funds to open and operate Hickory Ridge Elementary and West Cabarrus High beginning in August 2020. The County will also fund a School Resource Officer (SRO) at Hickory Ridge Elementary and nurses at each school.
  • Maintain school operations – Includes funds to maintain operations for Cabarrus County Schools, Kannapolis City Schools and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. This is a 2% increase from FY20.

QUALITY-OF-LIFE SERVICES

  • New courthouse – Includes funds and positions to operate a new courthouse starting in January 2023. To maintain security and safety in the larger facility, the new courthouse will require additional positions, including:
    • 22 deputies and three sergeants to secure the building
    • Seven custodians to clean the building
    • Two mechanics to keep building systems operating efficiently
    • A technical specialist

The County will fill these positions as needed and apply the balance of funds to one-time capital projects in FY21 and FY22.

  • Cabarrus Health Alliance – Includes funds to increase school nurse benefits and hours, provide an additional 1% match for employee retirement, change two school nurse positions from part-time to full-time and fund school nurses for Hickory Ridge Elementary and West Cabarrus High.
  • Extending hours at the Midland Branch of the library – Includes funds for a new full-time library assistant. This allows the branch to remain open an hour later in the evenings and have an additional operating day each week.
  • Salvation Army Center of Hope – Includes a one-time payment to help build a new homeless shelter that serves families and children.

COUNTY WORKFORCE

  • Appropriate pay – Includes funds to pay staff at levels that match similar positions across the state. Also funds a 1% cost-of-living adjustment and performance pay scale of up to 4% for employees.
  • New support – Includes funds for 42 positions to meet service demand. These positions will remain vacant until the County reviews first-quarter revenues and confirms the positions are sustainable.

ESSENTIAL BUILDING PROJECTS

Community Investment Fund (CIF) – Includes a $40 million payment from the General Fund to the CIF for current and future debt and other one-time capital projects.


Capital projects include:

  • EMS headquarters – Includes $2.5 million in FY21 for design and $14 million in FY22 for construction.
  • Frank Liske Park updates – Includes $1.64 million in FY21 to replace water and sewer lines, playground equipment, miniature golf course, restrooms, snack bar and offices. Another $4 million in FY22 will replace the boathouse and build a new boardwalk, bridge and splash pad.
  • Future library expansion – Includes $10 million in FY22 to address capacity and service delivery at our libraries. The project requires additional funds for operations and staffing.
  • New high school – Includes $4.58 million in FY22 to design a new high school for Cabarrus County Schools and $70 million in FY24 for construction.
  • R. Brown McAllister Elementary replacement – Includes $450,000 in FY21 for site development and $30 million in FY22 for construction of the new school.
  • West Cabarrus Library and Senior Center – Includes $2.5 million in FY21 to design a shared building and $25 million in FY24 to build or purchase a building. The project requires additional funds for operations and staffing.

County Manager Downs presented his proposed budget on June 1. The Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners held special budget workshops June 2 and 4 to discuss details of the proposed budget with management and outside agencies funded from the County budget. Video of each session is available at www.youtube.com/cabarruscounty.

At the June 4 budget workshop, local fire districts proposed maintaining current funding levels in FY21. Commissioners approved the proposal as part of the adopted FY21 budget. Only property owners within the respective fire district are required to pay the fire tax.

To help educate the community on the proposed budget, the County offered a virtual course for residents on June 9 and 11 and led public discussions on its social media channels. Public outreach continued with a public hearing before the vote on June 15.

To learn more about the FY21 budget, visit www.cabarruscounty.us/budget.

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