Iredell County manager unveils $222.6 million budget proposal
BY KARISSA MILLER
Iredell County's proposed 2019-2020 budget maintains the county’s property tax rate, but most property owners will pay higher taxes due to an increase in property values and an additional penny added to the fire tax rate.
County Manager Beth Jones unveiled the proposed spending plan for the next fiscal year during Tuesday's Iredell County Board of Commissioners meeting.
The budget calls for increasing spending from $205.7 million to $222.6 million and proposes maintaining the tax rate at 52.75 cents per $100 valuation.
The budget proposal is based on tax base of $25.6 billion and a collection rate of 98.9 percent. The revenue neutral rate is 48.72 cent per $100 valuation.
According to Jones, only 14 of North Carolina's 100 counties that had a lower 2018-2019 tax rate than Iredell County.
“A low tax rate is a double-edge sword in many respects,” Jones explained. “It assists business recruitment and retention and is appealing to new residents but it limits the county’s ability to offer the same levels of services as other similar size counties.”
The proposed budget, Jones said, represents the “delicate balance of adequate service delivery and fiscal conservancy.”
General Fund Proposed Budget Expenditures
► Education — 48 percent
► Public Safety — 20.4 percent
► Human Services — 14.5 percent
► General Government — 9.4 percent
► Building and Land Development — 2.6 percent
► Cultural and Recreational — 2.5 percent
► Capital Improvement Funding — 1.4 percent
► Debt Service — 1 percent
Largest Revenue Sources
The two largest funding sources the county’s operations are:
► Ad Valorem Taxes – 61.31 percent
► Local Option Sales Tax – 18.62 percent
Iredell-Statesville Schools, Mooresville Graded Schools District and Mitchell Community College would receive approximately 48 percent of the budget.
The 2019-2020 budget calls for an increase of $11,073,483 in education funding. This will increase per pupil funding to $1,675 from $1,625.
► I-SS will see an increase of 3.95 percent, or $1.4 million, in current expense funding.
► MGSD will see an increase of 4.65 percent, or $494,150 in current expense funding.
► MCC will see an increase of 4.11 percent, or $142,133, in current expense funding.
The construction of the jail is slated to be completed in late August of 2019.
Jones recommended 12 new positions, with 11 positions in the Sheriff’s Office ranging from road deputies to school resource officers and one new position in Animal Services.
The Social Services renovation at Government Center South will be completed in late 2019. This will allow the county to expand their services to the Mooresville area.
Jones recommends adding seven new mid-year positions in the Department of Social Services. The State of North Carolina funds 40 percent of these positions.
Jones is recommending a new all-county fire service district, which will be taxed at 8 cents per $100 as opposed to the former 7 cents. The voted-in tax rate would be set to zero.
The fire tax will apply to all fire districts with the exception Statesville and Mooresville municipalities.
Jones explained that the move would help the county implement a more sustainable funding plan to addresses personnel, apparatus and equipment needs and diminishing volunteerism.
The proposed budget includes performance-based raises for county employees.
Commissioners have taken great strides in recent years to ensure that Iredell County is an employer of choice, Jones said. The county's employee turnover rate was 5.17 percent during the first quarter of 2019.
“Staff retention is achieved through creating positive and safe working environments, engaging your staff and letting them know their voice is hard, showing appreciation and support, encouraging positive morale and rewarding exemplary service,” she said.
Jones recommended an up to 3-percent merit-based bonus for all employees based on their performance. Additionally, she recommended a pay scale adjustment of 3 percent.
“In order to hire and retain good employees, we must be competitive in the market relative to pay,” Jones explained.
The budget also includes funding to extend employee health clinic physical therapy hours, while allowing dependents and retirees to utilize this service.
The increased cost of improving this service will be offset by savings realized through reduced stop-loss premiums and claim reductions, Jones said.
Budget workshops are scheduled for Thursday, May 9, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the south wing conference room and Monday, May 13, from 8 a.m. to noon in the same location.
The south wing conference room is located inside the Iredell County Government Center, 200 South Center Street, Statesville. The meetings are open to the public.
Following the budget work sessions, commissioners will set a date for the public budget hearing. It is generally held in June.