May 20, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
County Manager Budget Recommendation:
Maintaining County Services With No Tax Increase
Focusing on Public Safety & Crime Fighting
Charlotte, NC – Mecklenburg County Manager Harry L. Jones, Sr., today proposed a no-tax-increase budget for FY2008 – 2009 totaling $1.5 billion. The recommended budget represents a 2.9% increase from the current year and maintains the current property tax rate of 83.87 cents per $100 valuation.
"Mecklenburg residents are facing numerous financial challenges including rising gas prices, increased cost of food, and escalating health care costs," said Jones. "As a result, we decided to avoid a property tax increase while still maintaining services to address community needs."
Jones outlined five key decisions points for the Board to address in adopting the FY09 budget:
A. Maintain County services within the current property tax rate. Jones is recommending $16.3 million in cost efficiencies be redirected from the current budget to avoid a tax increase while maintaining existing services, and for new initiatives focused on public safety and crime fighting. Those cost efficiencies and a reduction in Medicaid expenses allowed him to cut more than $3 million in the total cost of County services from the current year (FY08).
B. Open New Schools: The Board of Education requested an increase of $28.4 million in CMS operating funds to be added to a $19 million increase in debt service for new and renovated CMS facilities for a total increase of $47.4 million in CMS funding. The FY09 recommended budget includes funding for the $19 million increase in CMS debt service and a $10 million increase for CMS operating funds to open new schools slated to come on line next year. Jones said the $28.4 million request is generally consistent with CMS funding guidelines but that fully funding this request would require either a property tax increase or a significant cut in County services.
C. Competitive compensation for County employees: Jones is recommending a 2.7% increase in total payroll so County employees can earn market-competitive pay raises based on their performance. Raises are budgeted to average approximately 3.5%.
D. Maintain fiscal discipline: As part of his recommendation, Jones is urging the Board to maintain fiscal discipline in funding reserves for facility repair and maintenance, technology needs, and replacing aging vehicles in the County fleet. Jones said his recommended budget includes the minimum amount of funding needed to sustain these operations. In addition, Jones said every dollar recommended in the County's Paygo reserve for FY09 is dedicated to projects that have already begun or are part of a major commitment made by the Board. Paygo funds allow the County to build or do major renovations without having to borrow money, which saves taxpayers from paying interest costs.
E. Focus on public safety and crime fighting. The FY09 recommended budget emphasizes several public safety and crime fighting initiatives, including:
- $2.7 million for 74 new positions in the Sheriff's Office, and to open and operate 300 new beds at the jail annex on Spector Drive.
- $2.4 million for 61 new positions and the operating costs to open the Youthful Offender/Vocational Academy.
- $1.5 million to continue funding resources for various state agencies in the criminal justice system, including 43 full-time positions, of which 11 are assistant district attorneys.
- $1 million in new funding for court system initiatives, including adding 36 new positions for the District Attorney, Public Defender, Clerk of Court, Trial Court Administrator's Office and the County's Pretrial Services in the Sheriff's Office.
- $332,000 to pay the annualized cost of the Recovery Solutions service in Area Mental Health.
- $400,000 one-time funding to stabilize specific volunteer fire department agencies.
In addition, Jones also has provided the Board with an option of adding up to one cent to the current property tax rate to place a maximum of approximately $9.5 million in additional safety and crime fighting resources. These funds would be allocated by the Board based on recommendations developed jointly by the County and City Manager with input from the Criminal Justice Advisory Group (CJAG). Recommendations could include providing funds for additional law enforcement officers, court system personnel, technology improvements such as electronic monitoring, and security and safety at park facilities and/or other County-owned facilities.
The CJAC includes the two managers, the district attorney, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff, public defender, clerk of court, trial court administrator, CMPD chief of police, and the two chief judges. Jones recommends that any new criminal justice funding be subject to automatic sunset after three years if performance targets have not been achieved.
The Board sets the property tax rate for the law enforcement service district for the provision of police services in the unincorporated areas. Based on the agreement between the County and the City of Charlotte, in FY09, property owners in the unincorporated areas will experience a slight tax rate increase from 17.62 cents to 17.88 cents. This will add $5.20 to the property tax bill for a home with an assessed valuation of $200,000.
Numerous funding requests by County departments and outside agencies were not recommended for funding, including:
- The Board of Education's full funding request
- Additional funding for Medic to address growth that could impact response times and, therefore, patient care
- Hiring the next phase of 26 more school health nurses
- Expanding the Public Library's circulation and staffing
- WTVI's request to begin implementing Public Square
"I expect my recommendation may be very unpopular with those requesting new funding, because few, if any, would receive what they ask for," said Jones. "But my job is to provide not only a balanced budget but also a budget that balances the many needs that compete for limited funds."
Those who would like to comment on the recommended budget may sign up a public hearing to be held on Thursday, May 29 at 6 p.m. The public hearing will be held in the meeting chamber of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, 600 East Fourth Street, and televised live on the Government Channel (Time-Warner Cable Channel 16). It will also be streamed live on this web site.
Residents can sign up to speak by calling 704-336-2647 or online
The Board is scheduled to hold a series of budget workshops June 10 – 12, and is scheduled to adopt the FY09 budget at its regular meeting on June 17.
More information on the Mecklenburg County FY2009 budget and the budget calendar can be found
COUNTY MANAGER RECOMMENDS $704 MILLION PLAN
FOR COUNTY'S CAPITAL NEEDS
Charlotte, NC - Mecklenburg County Manager Harry L. Jones Sr. is recommending a $704.6 million Capital Budget for FY2009 in addition to the FY2009 Operating Budget.
The plan addresses critical needs in law enforcement facilities, and funds a capital improvements portion of the first phase of the 10-year Park and Recreation Master Plan -- both of which the County Manager recommended for voter consideration through referendums this fall.
“We have crucial needs in our Capital Improvement Plan projects, which we have done our best to prioritize through citizen input, and the recommendations of our Citizens Capital Budget Advisory Committee,” Jones said. “I am also recommending that the majority of the budget be presented for voter consideration later this year.”
The plan funds 14 projects, with financing provided through Pay-As-You-Go (Paygo) capital funds, bond referendums, Certificates of Participation (COPs), and lease/purchase agreements. More than $360 million of the budget is recommended for improvements to and new construction of law enforcement facilities.
The FY2009-2018 Capital Improvement Plan identifies the County’s long-term infrastructure needs and establishes a timeframe to address these needs in pursuit of the long-term goals identified in the Board of County Commissioners’ Community and Corporate Scorecard. The FY2009 Recommended Capital Budget identifies the projects that must be initiated this fiscal year to achieve these goals and objectives.
Projects recommended for funding in the FY2009 Capital Budget (including land costs) are:
- Government facilities: $90.5 million (COPS)
- Court facilities: $16.9 million (COPS)
- Law enforcement facilities: $360.2 million (Jail bond referendum)
- Solid Waste: $25 million (Fees)
- Park and Recreation: $200 million (Park bond referendum)
- Library facilities: $8.8 million (Paygo, COPs, and existing
- WTVI $2.5 million (Lease purchase)
More information, including the full recommendation from the Citizens Capital Budget Advisory Committee,
can be found here.