Recommended County budget maintains tax rate
Published on May 16, 2022
Cabarrus County is growing—fast. Commissioners must determine the most efficient ways of meeting increased service demands. The County budget is a roadmap for making this happen.
On Monday, County Manager Mike Downs presented commissioners with a recommended budget for Fiscal Year 2022-23. The budget strategically addresses high-priority areas while maintaining the tax rate for a third consecutive year.
“Our services contribute to the well-being and quality of life for residents,” Downs said. “This requires strategic investments as the county grows. However, staff is also mindful that any investment must be balanced with the impact on taxpayers. We believe this budget strikes that balance.”
The recommended budget maintains the property tax rate of 74 cents per $100 of assessed value, for a total Operating Budget of just under $318 million.
With that tax rate, owners of a $217,000 house (the median single-family assessed home value in Cabarrus), would pay $1,606 a year in County property tax.
The largest expenditure supported by the County is education/school debt, which will receive a 4.84% increase that brings the total funding to nearly $136.5 million. County expenditures increasing significantly over the previous year include non-education debt service (20.31% increase), public safety (15.25% increase) and general government (15.13% increase).
The recommended budget focuses on three key areas the County will need to support in order to keep up with the area’s rapid growth: personnel, education and capital (building) projects.
Here are some highlights of the FY23 proposed budget.
A competitive marketplace challenges the County’s ability to attract and retain high-quality employees. The FY23 budget addresses staffing in several key public safety areas and maintains service levels in high-demand areas. These adjustments and 39 staffing additions include:
- A salary increase of 5 to 15% for 287 public safety positions was recommended as part of a recent market study that compared public safety pay rates to other NC cities and counties
- A 1% cost-of-living adjustment for all County employees and merit pay increases of up to 4% based on individual performance
- Eleven positions in the Sheriff’s Office, including a Captain, four Deputies and six Detention Officers. The Captain and two Deputy positions are paid by the Town of Harrisburg through their contracted law enforcement services.
- Two Paramedics to address increased call volumes
- Three Paramedic Trainee positions that will attend the new Paramedic Academy at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and upon graduation move into a two-year employment commitment with the County
- A Social Worker III to address the rising number of Guardianship and Adult Protective Services cases, and a Social Worker II to provide at-home support services for Medicaid-eligible individuals at risk of entering an adult care home
- Two Social Worker Investigative/Assessment positions to work a non-traditional schedule (3 p.m. to midnight) during the busiest times of the week, two Social Worker Supervisor III positions to oversee intake and family assessments and a Social Worker III for call intake
- One Veterans Services Officer to help address the rising number of claims
- Two Code Enforcement Officers and a Permit Associate to complete inspections and issue permits for residents and developers. These positions are funded through inspection and permit fees.
- A Library Deputy Director to oversee external programs, marketing and outreach
- Several positions to address current deficiencies, including an Assessment Associate, Cyber Security Analyst, Grounds Maintenance Mechanic, Landfill Heavy Equipment Operator, Network Engineer, Resource Conservation Easement Specialist and Strategy Manager
To support the County’s commitment to succession planning and continuous improvement, Downs announced a new employment pathway—the County’s first Management Fellow Program. The budget also plans for an increase in the number of internships offered by the County.
“The three Management Fellows will be recent graduates or students in Master’s-level programs interested in serving full-time in a high-priority area of the County,” Downs said. “Interns will be recent graduates or current students at a community college or university who are willing to serve part-time for three to six months.”
The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute’s County Health Rankings puts Cabarrus at 13 out of the 100 North Carolina counties across key health measures. Downs credits the Cabarrus Health Alliance (CHA) for their work to address local health outcomes.
To move this work forward, the recommended budget funds merit increases for CHA staff. The funds will also allow CHA to add:
- Two On-site Wastewater Staff members to address substantial wait times for septic and well permits
- Two Food and Lodging Staff members to complete required inspections
- A School Nurse for the new Roberta Road Middle School
Downs highlighted the County’s work to support high-quality educators and schools.
“The County-paid supplement for certified staff employed by Cabarrus County Schools (CCS) and Kannapolis City Schools (KCS) increased for the ninth consecutive year,” Downs said in his remarks. “For the 2022 school year, CCS had the 16th and KCS had the 53rd highest average teacher supplements out of the 115 Local Education Agencies in the state. Just 10 years ago CCS ranked 37th and KCS 70th in the state.”
The recommended budget calls attention to a funding cliff slated to hit after the 2024 school year.
“The County’s current budget (FY22) included funding for a 10.5% local supplement; however, the CCS Board of Education went beyond that, choosing to use one-time federal funding to increase the local supplement to 12% for the 2022, 2023 and 2024 school years,” Downs added. “After the 2024 school year, there will be insufficient funding for the supplement to remain at 12% without budgeting additional local funding. The budget includes funding equivalent to 1% of the County-paid local supplement for certified staff to begin reserving the funds that will be needed to cover the shortfall in two years. The remaining 0.5% needed to fully cover the shortfall will be recommended for the FY24 budget.”
In addition to the supplement, the County’s CCS allocation includes additional funding to cover the rising costs of locally paid staff and technology; expenses for the new Roberta Road Middle School and Cabarrus Health Sciences Institute; and an additional $561,000 to improve facilities and grounds maintenance. The CCS budget allocation totals $73.6 million, an increase of 3.6%.
The County is required to allocate CCS and KCS equal shares based on enrollment. To meet this requirement, the budget includes funding for a 0.5% increase in the County-paid local supplement for certified KCS staff. The KCS budget allocation totals $8.9 million, an increase of 3.1%.
Charter school enrollment continues to rise, with an estimate of nearly 3,000 students. That’s a 21% increase over the past three years. This results in total per-pupil funding of $6.3 million, an increase of 14.4%.
Per a 2021 agreement with CCS, the County is reserving that fiscal year’s funding for continuation and local supplements until FY25. This amount totals $4.9 million, with per-pupil allocations at $4 million for CCS, $487,887 for KCS and $345,693 for charter schools.
Rowan-Cabarrus Community College (Rowan-Cabarrus) plays a vital role in workforce and economic development within the county and region. Additional funding for utilities, personnel and a new Building Automation Technician—co-funded by Rowan County—are included in the budget. The total budgeted allocation for Rowan-Cabarrus is $3.95 million, an increase of 5.3%.
Other capital projects
The FY23 budget includes $38.2 million from the General Fund to the Community Investment Fund (CIF) for current and future debt payments. The budget also includes $22.1 million from the County’s pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) program. PAYGO is the use of cash rather than debt to pay for needed capital projects.
The County will not issue new debt in FY23, which is consistent with its every-other-year cycle.
PAYGO will fund a significant number of essential projects, including:
- $11.6 million for various projects at County facilities. Examples include utility and RV lot improvements at the Cabarrus Arena and Events Center; paving the overflow parking lot at the Senior Center, Concord; and tennis court renovations at Frank Liske Park.
- $4.2 million for Cabarrus County Schools to fund their top 20 deferred maintenance projects. Project examples include multiple fire alarm system replacements, roof replacements and playground replacements. These projects would have a positive impact on 15 schools across the district.
- $2.5 million for Cabarrus County Schools to replace the roof at W.M. Irvin Elementary School and Harris Road Middle School. With these two projects, the County will have funded seven complete roof replacements in the last two years.
- $2.3 million for Rowan-Cabarrus Community College to renovate Building 2000 for law enforcement, EMT/paramedic and certified nursing assistant programs. Completion of this project will free up needed space on the 7th floor of the Sheriff’s Administrative Building for their use.
- $2 million to program and design a new public safety training facility adjacent to Frank Liske Park in Concord. The facility will assist local emergency medical services, fire departments and law enforcement in meeting their training requirements. This project will be in partnership with Concord, Harrisburg, Kannapolis and the volunteer fire departments. The County’s share of construction costs for the project will be included in the FY24 budget.
- $1.5 million for Kannapolis City Schools to fund various deferred maintenance projects including flooring replacements, security cameras and paving repairs.
Funding sources for these projects are noted in the Cabarrus County Capital Project Ordinance scheduled for adoption by commissioners in June 2022, in addition to the general budget ordinance. Capital projects planned for beyond FY23 require a staff recommendation and formal adoption by the board before proceeding.
Fire district tax
The Board is also considering tax increase requests made by the Allen, East Gold Hill and Flowes Store volunteer fire departments. Allen requests a 1.5-cent increase, East Gold Hill requests a 1-cent increase and Flowes Store requests a 7-cent increase per $100 of property value for residents who live within the respective fire districts.
Commissioners will hold a budget public hearing on June 6 at 5:30 p.m.
Following a June 9 budget workshop, if needed, the board plans to vote on the budget June 20.
Gov 101: FY23 Budget Breakdown
As part of the Government 101 education series, the County will host Gov 101: FY23 Budget Breakdown on May 31, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. This session includes an overview of the budget process, plus presentations and demonstrations on how the budget works. Participants will also have an opportunity to participate in open discussions with County management and Commissioners. To register Government 101: FY23 Budget Breakdown, call 704-920-2266 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.