Workforce, education needs prioritized in recommended Cabarrus County budget
Plan maintains 74-cent tax rate to fund operations in Fiscal Year 2023-24
CABARRUS COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - A press release says that Cabarrus County is “powered by people and focused on the future,” and cites the priorities in the budget as evidence of that fact.
On Monday, County Manager Mike Downs presented a budget that places a premium on those elements while maintaining the tax rate for the fourth consecutive year. Downs broke down all the highlights of the $340 million plan for Fiscal Year 2023-24 (FY24) during commissioners’ May Regular Meeting.
Under the recommendation, the property tax rate will remain at 74 cents per $100 of assessed value. With that 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.
“This budget focuses heavily on retaining employees and attracting talent,” Downs told commissioners. “County employees are the backbone of this organization. When we invest in them, they are driven and empowered to provide the best customer service experiences for our residents.”
In addition to personnel, the recommended budget prioritizes other key components to the future of Cabarrus, including education and capital (building) projects.
Here are some highlights of the proposed FY24 budget:
Investing in service to county residents
The FY24 budget emphasizes retaining experienced, knowledgeable Cabarrus employees and boosting the County’s ability to attract talent, Downs said.
Increased employee turnover, particularly in the Department of Human Services (DHS), Transportation and Fire Services, makes it clear action is required to ensure the County’s workforce can continue delivering the high-quality services residents depend on, Downs said, adding that reduced turnover can help avoid costs associated with recruiting, training and onboarding new employees.
These investments include:
- Accelerating the review of market data for all position salaries from a four-year to a two-year cycle, ensuring the County maintains competitive compensation for employees
- Funding pay adjustments recommended by the most recent market data study, with increases ranging from 5% to 30% for more than 150 employees
- Fast-tracking the market data study for DHS so adjustments can be implemented by December 2023 to help stabilize the department
- Awarding longevity payments ranging from $375 to $2,500 for permanent full-time and part-time employees with at least five years of continuous service to the County
- Increasing the on-call pay rate for eligible employees from $50 per week to $160 per week, better aligning the County with its competition
- Funding a 1% cost-of-living adjustment for all County employees and merit pay increases of up to 4% based on individual performance
- Allowing employees to choose between two healthcare plans based on their individual needs
Several new position needs are included in the proposed budget to reduce workload and related stress while ensuring the County keeps up with growth and services to residents, including:
- A Sex Offender Registry Investigator (Detective) to maintain records and investigate possible violations
- A Detective Sergeant and two Detectives for the Town of Harrisburg Division, with expenses paid by the Town through their contract for law enforcement services
- A Records Management System (RMS) Administrator to oversee the Sheriff’s Office new RMS and Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD)
- A Training and Education Captain to lead Emergency Medical Services (EMS) simulations, training and education, and certifications/compliance
- 36.4 positions to staff three new facilities expected to open toward the end of calendar year 2024: The new Public Library and Active Living Center at Afton Ridge, the expanded Public Library and Active Living Center at Mt. Pleasant and Virginia Foil Park
- A Branch Manager and part-time Library Assistant, and an increase in part-time position hours from 16 to 25 hours per week for the Midland Branch’s proposed expansion to six days a week service, consistent with other County branches
- A Cybersecurity Analyst to further enhance the County’s ability to defend against data breaches, ransomware attacks and to enable proactive countermeasures
Downs highlighted the County’s work to support high-quality educators and schools, stating the importance of making strategic investments in their education partners: Cabarrus County Schools (CCS), Kannapolis City Schools (KCS) and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College (RCCC).
“Unfortunately, retention and recruitment challenges also impact our education partners,” Downs told commissioners. “Both CCS and KCS are dealing with elevated turnover and less availability of substitute teachers.”
The recommended budget provides additional funding to maintain the CCS supplement at 12%. For KCS, the budget includes funding for a 0.5% increase to the local supplement for Kannapolis City Schools, bringing their total to 9%.
In addition to the supplement, the proposed CCS and KCS budgets include funding to cover the rising costs of locally paid staff, operating expenses and technology. The CCS budget totals $81.7 million, an increase of 11% from the prior year. The KCS budget totals $9.3 million, an increase of 4.7% from the prior year.
The County is also required to provide equal per-pupil funding for students attending a charter school. Charter school enrollment is estimated to be nearly 3,000 students for the 2023-2024 school year. This results in direct charter school funding to CCS and KCS of just over $6.5 million.
RCCC plays a vital role in workforce and economic development throughout the County and region. Additional funding for salary and benefit increases, utilities, a new locksmith position and a new safety assistant director position is included in the budget. Both new positions are co-funded by Rowan County. This results in total funding of $4.3 million, an increase of 9.2% from the prior year.
Community Investment Fund
The proposed FY24 budget includes a transfer of $38.2 million from the General Fund to the Community Investment Fund (CIF) for current and future debt payments. The County will issue up to $180 million of new debt in FY24, which is consistent with their every-other-year cycle. Debt funded projects include:
- Up to $60.1 million to acquire and renovate a space for a new Human Services facility in Concord. The facility will replace leased space in Kannapolis, costing the County about $1 million annually until 2027.
- Up to $35 million to construct a new Public Safety Training Facility for the Sheriff’s Office, Squad 410 and volunteer fire departments
- Up to $33 million to address deferred maintenance projects (e.g., HVAC, roof repairs, etc.) for CCS, KCS and/or RCCC
- Up to $19 million for KCS to design and construct an additional classroom building at Fred L. Wilson Elementary School and replace the HVAC system at Forest Park Elementary School. The County is hopeful Rowan County will cover a portion of the project cost based on their share of the student population.
- Up to $17.5 million to complete the upfit for the new Public Library and Active Living Center at Afton Ridge
- Up to $11 million for CCS to renovate the current R. Brown McAllister Elementary School to become the new Mary Frances Wall Center
- Up to $7 million for CCS to design and construct a replacement Opportunity School that would allow relocation from the aging Glenn Center
- Up to $5.3 million to replace the HVAC system at the RCCC South Campus
The budget also includes $18.5 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. PAYGO will fund a significant number of essential projects, including:
- About $5.8 million for CCS to fund 29 of their top 36 deferred maintenance projects. Project examples include enhancing access controls, roof repairs, parking lot repairs and flooring replacements.
- $4 million reserved for future land acquisition. County staff have identified the likelihood that land will be needed in the future for school, library, active living center and/or animal shelter use.
- $2 million to design a new Human Services facility in Concord
- $1.5 million for KCS to fund various deferred maintenance projects. Project examples include improving the security of parent entrances and replacement of flooring, digital signage and furniture.
- $1.1 million to construct a new park office and ADA-accessible mini-golf course at Frank Liske Park
- $1 million for an additional building chiller at the Sheriff’s Office Administration Building
- $935,000 to replace the compactor at the Cabarrus County Landfill on Irish Potato Road
Funding sources for these projects are noted in the Cabarrus County Capital Project Ordinance scheduled for adoption by commissioners in June.
The FY24 budget runs from July 1, 2023 through June 30, 2024.
Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the budget during their Work Session on June 5. The vote is scheduled for the Regular Meeting on June 19.
Gov 101: FY24 Budget Breakdown
As part of the Government 101 education series, the County will host Gov 101: FY24 Budget Breakdown on May 18, 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 view the proposed FY24 budget, visit //cabarruscounty.us/budget and click the tile that says “FY24 Recommended Budget.”
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