County Manager Recommends Sustaining Operations With Lowest Tax Rate In Years

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Mecklenburg County taxpayers will experience the lowest county tax rate in eight years if the Board of County Commissioners adopts the FY13 budget recommended by County Manager Harry Jones.

Under Jones’ funding proposal, the county tax rate would decrease by 2.44 cents to 79.22 cents for every $100 of valued property. As a result, owners of a property with an assessed valuation of $200,000 would see a $49 annual reduction in their county tax bill.

“The FY13 Recommended Budget does not attempt to restore all of what was cut over recent years; it does not accommodate all funding requests,” Jones said in prepared remarks. “Instead, this budget reflects the Board’s fiscal priorities and critical success factors, with an emphasis on continued fiscal discipline and the sustainability and affordability of County services.”

Jones said his $1.41 billion budget focuses on sustaining County operations while maintaining fiscal discipline. Taking that conservative approach for the past few years is why revenues exceeded estimates in the current budget year, Jones said, and it is why he is able to propose a tax cut. On Tuesday evening the Board heard an overview from Jones, who then asked Hyong Yi, budget and management director, to provide the details.

Those details include more funds allocated for education services to sustain operations and address growth in student population. Also included are funds for the public health operation transition; taking on the Medicaid Waiver service; restoring Sunday hours for regional libraries, and money for two new parks. Money for the next revaluation is also included.

A new fire service tax district for residents who live in Mecklenburg County but outside of a city or town limit is included. Unincorporated residents also will see a recommended 0.71 cents increase – for a total of 19.37 cents – in the tax rate they currently pay for police service.

Ultimately, the Board will decide the tax rate and vote to adopt a budget for the County. The nine-member governing Board is expected to adopt a budget at its June 5, 2012 meeting. The Fiscal Year 2012-2013 budget will cover July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013.

The total dollar amount of the FY2013 Recommended Budget is $1,416,308,228 and includes:

Education: The recommended budget provides $367.4 million for education funding – not including debt service. This includes $335 million for Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools’ operating budget and $27.3 million for Central Piedmont Community Colleges’ operating budget. CMS funding is a $9.1 million increase from FY12 to sustain current operations and to pay for the growth in student population. For CPCC, funding would increase by $1.5 million for its facility operations and the transition costs for WTVI public television station.

Park and Recreation: An additional $727,000 is recommended for the County’s Park and Recreation Department to develop and operate two new parks opening in FY13; expand the youth employment program from 30 to 45 youths, and replace park maintenance equipment.

Library: An additional $811,000 is recommended to restore Sunday operations of regional libraries throughout the County.

Employees: An investment in County employees includes a 2 percent increase to payroll for performance-based pay raises, and to fully restore to 5 percent the balance of the County’s match of employee contributions to their deferred compensation accounts.

Public Health: The Board authorized termination of the agreement with Carolinas HealthCare System by June 30, 2013, which means public health services will transition from CHS to County operations on July 1, 2013. Although the full transition will occur at the beginning of Fiscal Year 2014, the timing requires the County to fund and implement the start-up of the transition in FY13. This transition start-up will cost $2.7 million, including 17 additional Health Department positions that will be filled during FY13.

Fire Protection Service District Tax: The Board authorized the Fire Protection Service District Tax which created five Fire Protection Service Districts with separate tax rates to generate revenue to pay for volunteer fire services. The rates will vary by district with most set at 5 cents. This shift in revenue source will eliminate from the general fund the $2.4 million subsidy of the volunteer fire departments. This reduction accounts for 0.2 cents of the proposed county-wide 2.44-cents property tax rate decrease.

Law Enforcement Service District Tax: A tax rate of 19.37 cents, an increase of 0.71 cents.

Residents have an opportunity to share their thoughts, concerns and feedback on the Recommended Budget during a Public Hearing at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 24, 2012. The hearing is in the Meeting Chambers of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, 600 East Fourth Street in Charlotte. Online registration to speak at the hearing is available at www.mecklenburgcountync.gov or call 704-336-2086. To view the complete FY13 Recommended Budget, visit the County’s website.

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