The Macon county Commissioners met last night at about the same time as the Franklin Town Board of Aldermen and I covered that meeting first [see coverage of that meeting], then when it was over, joined the budget work session of the Macon County Commissioners at about 7:30pm for the last half of that meeting. I have embedded the audio below, along with a link so that you may download it to your computer or MP3 Player and listen at your convenience. I will have the video ready as soon as I can. Perhaps by the end of the week.
Macon County Manager's Office • Budget Message
May 8, 2012
Macon County Board of Commissioners
Chairman: Kevin Corbin
Vice-Chair: Bobby Kuppers
Commissioner: Ronnie Beale
Commissioner: Ron Haven
Commissioner: Jimmy Tate
In accordance with the North Carolina Local Government Budget and Fiscal Control Act, I am pleased to present to you the proposed budget for Macon County for fiscal year 2012/2013.
Macon County continues to maintain an enviable position in comparison to many counties in North Carolina. The county remains in sound financial condition, and currently has the lowest ad-valorem property tax rate among all counties in North Carolina (@ 27.9 cents per $100). Our county credit rating this year was raised by Standard and Poor’s from an A to an A+. Our fund balance is stable and allows the county to have reserves in an amount equal to at least three months of operating expenditures. This provides a strong degree of financial security in terms of being prepared for unexpected emergencies or shortfalls in revenue. The healthy fund balance, a conservative approach to budgeting, along with a consistent tax collection rate contributes to Macon County’s favorable Bond Rating.
There are many positive accomplishments the county can be proud of, while at the same time being vigilant in our approach to responsible financial planning. I sincerely believe this is what is meant by being a good steward of public funds. I will take time in this budget message to emphasize both highlights of the current year, and the challenges facing the county next year.
On the revenue side of the budget, growth in the tax base is minimal and although sales taxes have somewhat stabilized they continue to fall short of past years growth experience. We, like everyone continue to hope for a better economy next year.
During the past year Macon County continued with several major projects and has made considerable progress on these. The following list provides some insight on these very important contributions to the future of Macon County.
- Construction continues on the new K-4 Iotla Valley Elementary School, (Construction Cost) $11,300,000, $118.00 per square foot, financed at a net interest rate to the county of 0.48 %. The debt will retire in 17 years, and the school is on schedule to be completed and occupied by this August.
- Little Tennessee/Cartoogechaye Creek Sewer Interceptor Line: The main line is now operational. When we complete the reuse system at the landfill, the project we will be finished. We expect to finalize by June 30th.
- The Riverbend Road/ Highway 28 North, water project is now complete along with a new 500,000 gallon finished water storage tank (Wilkie Street Tank). Funds to extend new water service to the Swiss Colony subdivision area are available, and we are waiting for the Town of Franklin to acquire the necessary easements and rights of way in order to let the contract on this additional phase of the project.
- The Macon County Airport runway extension project has been completed after nearly 10 years of delays and setbacks. The county in this year’s budget appropriated enough funds ($232,634) to match a new Federal Aviation Administration grant of ($2,093,706) for the rehabilitation and repaving of the airport apron. This project will begin this fiscal year but likely will not be completed until early next fiscal year.
- Renovation is well underway on the new Sherriff’s Office on Palmer Street. We expect to have the work completed by June 30, and hopefully fully occupied by then.
- The Barrett Building renovation is proceeding well and with any luck we should have that project completed this summer. In addition to renovating the top floor, and installing a state of the art communications system for the county’s Emergency 911 Center, a new interior accessible elevator will be installed to make the entire building more ADA compliant and handicap accessible.
- The Business Development Center (Incubator) has suddenly taken off with renewed interest. We have several new businesses that have located there this year and have recently had request for more space. We hope to be able to relocate the DMV Drivers License Office and utilize that space for business development purposes soon.
In order to fund essential county services, meet the county’s debt service obligation on capital projects, and maintain critical needs in education and public safety, we have made decisions and recommendations that prioritize ,and in many cases reduce departmental and agency budget requests this year. There are many worthwhile and commendable projects, programs, and services that have merit and still need to be funded and or implemented, but have not been included in this proposal due to lack of additional revenue.
The original approved general fund budget for this year (2011/2012) was $42,775,263. Due to continuing contracts and additional revenue the current revised budget for this year is $45,788,503. The proposed general fund budget for fiscal year (2012/2013) is $44,275,869.
The proposed budget for (2012/13) is 3.5% more than the (2011/2012) original approved general fund budget, and is 3.3% less than the revised current year general fund budget. The increase is due in large part because of additional appropriations from fund balance not from a growth in general fund revenues. This is basically a no growth budget except for one time expenditures from fund balance reserve.
The county General Fund operating budget is balanced within existing revenues. No property tax increase is requested or recommended. We have reduced requests for capital outlay from our departments and trimmed other expenses where feasible. Our goal over the past four years has been to maintain the current level of service without additional staff. We have been able to do that by leaving non critical positions unfilled throughout county departments. We have asked county staff to take on additional work load with no salary adjustment. We continue to fill only essential positions when they become vacant.
Our county employees have worked hard to do their job without complaint as they continue to help us hold the line on spending while delivering essential county services. Macon County is indeed fortunate to have such dedicated and devoted employees. The Board earlier this year authorized a new classification and pay plan study that is almost ready for presentation. We do not have the financial impact of that study at this time, and therefore have not budgeted anything at this point for implementation of the approved plan. We will continue to work with Springsted (our consultant) on an implementation plan when we receive the final report. At this point the proposed budget contains no salary adjustments.
Our self-funded health insurance program continues to remain strong. We have not had to increase our rates for employees/dependant coverage in four years due to the fact our loss in claims has been favorable. We are not proposing an increase in employee contributions at this time. This will be the fifth consecutive year without an increase. I anticipate that next year (2013/2014) that will definitely change.
Every year, Macon County strives to improve services, recruit and retain quality employees and work to maintain and improve the quality of life for residents and visitors alike. We are committed to maintaining our leadership position in Western North Carolina. Macon County enjoys a reputation of being a forward thinking progressive county that seeks to preserve the quality of life while carefully balancing the needs of our citizens and the tax burden they are asked to bear. I believe this proposed county budget reflects that commitment.
There are several key issues we have addressed as we prepared this spending plan for next year. Here are a few highlights of that plan. A full and complete line item detail has been prepared that gives a thorough breakdown of each expenditure, appropriation and revenue source.
The state is still facing yet another budget crisis next year. With the General Assembly in session we remain concerned that the state could shift additional responsibilities and/or reduce county funding to correct its budget crisis. We hope that will not be the case. We have been reassured by our legislators that the state will not balance their budget on the backs of the counties this year. So far they seem to be holding to that pledge. I remain guardedly optimistic
In the past four years Macon County has made an enormous commitment to our local educational system in terms of capital improvement needs as the following demonstrates.
Capital improvements to East Franklin Elementary School (QZAB)..........$2,000,000
New Intermediate School and expansion to East Franklin..........$20,000,000
Purchase (Owens) property for Mountain View Intermediate..........$2,600,000
Nantahala Renovation (QZAB)..........$1,800,000
Iotla Valley Elementary School Construction..........$13,869,000
Franklin High School Improvements..........$1,321,000
Highlands School Improvements and sports fields..........$938,000
Macon Middle School Air Conditioning..........$80,000
South Macon Access Road..........$88,657
Union Academy roof replacement..........$62,765
Total County Funded School Capital Projects since 2008..........$42,759,422
We plan to complete the window replacement on the Nantahala School in the coming year. Leftover QZAB funds and a small local appropriation will finish this item that was omitted in the original project due to shortage of funding at that time.
The critical need at this time in our school system is Technology.
The county is well aware that the current situation regarding computer upgrades is far behind where it needs to be. With the elimination of ADM funding for technology by the state, our replacement schedule has grown from a five year replacement schedule to a nine year replacement schedule. In addition to that, in less than two years (2014) the state will require all local School Systems to be able to do assessments, and send end of grade reports electronically to Raleigh. In order to meet this critical need now it will require an estimated $1,500,000 in funding specifically for Information Technology. This budget includes a proposal to seek a low interest (around 1.75%) short term (54 month) loan in order to immediately address this issue. The debt will be paid back in yearly fund balance appropriations. This would not only solve the immediate problem but preserve the county fund balance in case of emergency. The estimated loan payment of $311,829 is included in this proposed budget. If the economy improves the county would reserve the right to retire the debt before the end of the term.
FY 12-13 Current Exp- CO-Solid Waste- Supplement- Debt Service..........$12,384,421
FY 12-13 Total Macon County General Fund Budget..........$44,275,869
Percent of Total General Fund Budget..........28%
Appropriation as a Percent of Property Taxes..........48.89%
The proposed FY 2012/2013 budget recommends the county appropriation to the School Current Expense budget increase to the FY 2009/2010 level of $6,911,000 and the Capital Outlay Budget be funded at $256,000. With current capital outlay at this level of funding the School System could be able to meet at least some of their current critical capital needs. As noted earlier, county funding addresses the $1,500,000 technology need in the school system. The proposed budget continues to include full funding for the teacher supplement.
Another ongoing concern and high priority is public safety. With this in mind the recommendation in this proposed budget is to replace two four wheel drive ambulances in the EMS Department, and six patrol vehicles in the Sheriff’s Department. This will help Macon County preserve our rotation system and preserve our readiness to be fully prepared and able to respond effectively and efficiently when the need arises.
Funding for outside agencies in the Special Appropriations budget remains at current year levels.
The proposed budget for Macon County for Fiscal Year 2012/2013 as required by state statute is balanced with revenues and expenditures of $44,275,869 and is hereby submitted for your review and consideration.
C. Jack Horton
County Manager/ Budget Officer
Here are the recommended budget for 2012-2013 and the approved budget from 2011-2012, followed by the recommended budget from last year:
2012-13 Admin Recommended Budget for Macon County
2012 Board Approved Budget for Macon County
2012 Admin Recommended Budget