School systems to receive increase in funding for current expenses; property tax rate to increase by one cent to fund construction of two new schools, training center for Mitchell Community College

BY KARISSA MILLER

Iredell County commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to adopt the proposed $230.3 million county budget for Fiscal Year 2020-2021.

The proposed spending plan will increase spending by more than $7 million over the current budget.

The property tax rate will increase by one cent to $0.5375 per $100 valuation. The increase is the result of the school capacity bond approved by voters in March.

The budget is based on a tax base of $26.6 billion and a collection rate of 98.91 percent.

Out of the 100 counties in the State of North Carolina, only 12 had a lower tax rate in 2019-2020 than Iredell County.

Property owners will also notice the new 9-cent all-county fire tax. This tax was established to help with apparatus replacement and other purchase items while sustaining the 19 contracted volunteer fire departments.

County Manager Beth Jones explained that the education budget uses a new funding formula, which came at the request of the school system.

In years past, the school system had a need for capital funds for facility improvements and other items of that nature. Those extra dollars are really needed on the current expense side, Jones said.

“It shifts those extra dollars (from the capital budget) over into current expense,” the county manager said.

Chairman James Mallory explained that money that’s in the capital expenditures account cannot be used for operations. Whereas, money that’s in the current expense (operational budget) can be turned over for capital projects.

Mallory said that this will offer the school systems more flexibility in terms of their budget. The amount allotted for each school system is based on Average Daily Membership, or student enrollment.

“They will be funded at a rate that’s competitive with other counties,” Mallory said.

This resulted in the county allocating $1,940 per pupil, an increase of about $300 per student over the 2019-2020 year.

Jones also mentioned that the county refrained from giving out salary increases to county employees.

She asked commissioners to consider pay increases for employees when and if revenues come back.

“When everyone else was shut down and working from home, your county employees were pulling extra hours,” Jones said.

The two largest funding sources the county’s operations comes from:
• Ad Valorem property taxes: 62.44 percent
• Local Option Sales Tax: 16.57 percent

The three major budget expenditures are:
• Education: 44.28 percent
• Public Safety: 21.26 percent
• Human Services: 14.6 percent

The board has agreed to use $280,000 from the county’s fund balance — which operates like a savings account — to fund two capital projects in the upcoming 2021 budget.
• Fairgrounds Master Plan: $250,000
• Planning Grant Match: $30,000

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