Cumberland County Manager Amy Cannon on Thursday presented the county's fiscal 2023 recommended budget to the Board of Commissioners during a special called meeting.
The county's tax rate remains unchanged at 79.9 cents per $100 of assessed property value. Each penny on the tax rate produces $2,427,268. The budget is balanced, as required by the North Carolina Local Government Commission, Cannon told commissioners.
The budget takes into account the board's priorities established in fiscal 2021, which include the Crown Event Center to replace the Crown Theatre and Crown Arena, public water access for Gray's Creek and mitigating homelessness.
The recommended budget calls for $552,930,111 in total expenditures across all county funds, and a General Fund of $362,177,033.
In her budget message to the commissioners, Cannon outlined the issues facing the county government in the upcoming budget cycle. First among those is what she termed "the new normal," a COVID-19, pandemic-induced altered work environment. The pandemic resulted in new organizational structures where employees were forced to work from home and adapt to new technology.
"The uncertainty remains. Remote work still remains," she said. The new normal also includes providing services electronically, erratic economic recovery, and the potential of a new COVID-19 variant that can affect the delivery of services.
The budget also takes into account the prevailing economic uncertainty. Cannon said another important factor affecting county operations is inflation, currently at 8.5% and eroding the spending power of county residents and county government. Along with inflation, the county must adjust to ever-increasing fuel prices and supply chain issues.
Cannon projected General Fund revenues from ad valorem taxes at $170,695,791, a $2 million increase over fiscal 2022. Motor vehicle tax revenues are budgeted at $23,242,940, a $1 million increase over 2022.
She said the ad valorem taxes are the largest revenue source at 55% of the total budget revenue. These taxes are based on the combined values of real property, personal property, and motor vehicles of about $194 million. Real and personal property taxes are budgeted at $170.7 million, an increase of $2 million over last year.
Some of the county's major spending highlights include:
The recommended budget also includes $84.3 million for Cumberland County Schools, an increase of $1.3 million from fiscal 2022. There is also an additional $3.9 million for the school system for school health nurses, school resource officers and crossing guards.
Cannon ended her hour-long budget message talking about the great resignation, a national phenomenon whereby workers are leaving their jobs in droves. Cannon said employees are leaving for better pay because they are mentally exhausted, want a flexible work schedule and a better work-life balance. She said Cumberland County government is not immune from that.
The commissioners will digest the recommended budget and begin their work session on June 1 at 5:30 p.m. in Room 564 in the Judge E. Maurice Braswell Cumberland County Courthouse. The public hearing on the budget is scheduled for June 6 at 7 p.m. Thereafter, the commissioners will have three more work sessions.
The recommended budget is available on the county website at cumberlandcountync.gov.