The Alexander County Board of Commissioners held a budget work session on Monday, June 13 to discuss the proposed 2022-2023 county budget. The major topics of discussion included increased funding for the county’s volunteer fire departments, a possible ¼-cent local sales tax, and a decrease in the property tax rate following next year’s revaluation.
County Manager Rick French said the proposed budget totals $53,653,167. Originally, a 4-cent property tax decrease was included; however, at the work session, commissioners said they believe it would be prudent to wait on the results of the county’s tax revaluation in 2023 and then determine how much to decrease the property tax rate.
“We wanted to lower property taxes for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, but the uncertainty of the national economy has made us rethink our position and be more financially conservative to ensure that our county is in good shape,” said Chairman Ronnie Reese. “With property revaluation next year, we are confident that our citizens will see a decrease in the property tax rate.”
Mr. French said he has been in discussion with local fire chiefs who have expressed a need for additional funding from the county. In addition to the fire district property taxes already in place, the proposed budget now includes $63,000 from the county’s general fund for each of the county’s eight volunteer fire departments. The County Manager said he hopes to continue to provide additional funding each year based on the departments’ coverage, number of calls, number of firefighters, etc. He said the amount of the funding is somewhat contingent on a proposed ¼-cent local sales tax.
Mr. French said he has been in contact with the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (NCACC) to discuss the proposed ¼-cent tax, which will hopefully be introduced to the General Assembly in September 2022. He said the sales tax request would then go through a legislative process with consideration during the General Assembly’s long session in January 2023. A local referendum would then be necessary to pass the ¼-cent sales tax.
“In my opinion, we haven’t paid enough attention to our fire departments,” said Mr. French. “They do a great job and need more financial support to provide these essential services.”
If passed, a ¼-cent sales tax would generate approximately $800,000 in Alexander County, which would be available for emergency services.
“This year’s budget is like a band-aid for our fire departments, but we will have a definite plan in place if the ¼-cent sales tax is approved,” said Marty Pennell, Vice Chairman.
Chairman Reese agreed, “With revaluation coming next year and the possible ¼-cent sales tax, we will have a long-term solution to provide much-needed funding to our volunteer fire departments without raising other taxes.”
The proposed budget includes no tax increases in fire districts and no fee increases for building inspections, zoning, or fire inspections. The City of Hickory is proposing a 3 percent increase in water rates, pending approval of the Hickory City Council.
Mr. French said the proposed budget includes a 5 percent cost-of-living adjustment for county employees. He said the county is planning improvements at Bethlehem Park, and Wittenburg Access Area is scheduled for completion in spring 2023.
The 2022-2023 budget is scheduled to be adopted at the board’s meeting on Monday, June 20 at 6:00 p.m. at the CVCC Alexander Center for Education (room #103).
The Alexander County Board of Commissioners typically meets on the first Monday of each month at 6:00 p.m. in room #103 at the CVCC Alexander Center for Education. The next regular meeting is set for Monday, June 20 at 6:00 p.m. Regular meetings are recorded and can be viewed on the county’s Government Channel on Spectrum channel 192 or on the county’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/alexandercountync. Meeting agendas, minutes, videos, and more are available on the county’s website at https://alexandercountync.gov/commissioners.