Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer
For the last 10 years, the county’s annual budget has reflected a revenue-neutral tax rate, meaning the tax rate was enough to generate a revenue to only cover the county’s expenditures. For the first time in a decade, the Macon County manager’s proposed budget goes beyond a revenue-neutral tax rate and includes a slight increase in order to invest in the county’s infrastructure and meet growing budget demands such as funding for public education.
“For the FY ’19-’20 budget, I am recommending an ad-valorem tax rate of $.003694,” said County Manager Derek Roland. “This is a $.000133 increase above the revenue neutral level and will generate approximately $1,050,000 in recurring revenue. This amount is needed to cover increased funding for Operations ($500,000) Technology ($300,000), and Annual Capital Outlay ($250,000), in the School System’s Budget, as approved by the Board of Commissioners in FY ’18-’19. Of the $1,050,000 approved increase in FY ’18-’19, $750,000 was in the form of an appropriation from Fund Balance, while the remaining $300,000 was taken from the County’s Consolidated Capital Projects Fund.”
Roland presented his budget proposal to county commissioners Tuesday night and prefaced his presentation by stating that his budget requests are based on recommendations and the directives handed to him by commissioners. From public education, to public safety, to broadband, to recreation, Roland incorporated priorities outlined by commissioners in his budget proposal.
Even with the proposed tax rate increase, Roland informed commissioners that Macon County still maintains one of the lowest tax rates in the state.
“At the recommended tax rate of $.003694 Macon County residents will continue to receive services at a price tag well below that of the seven county Western Region (.00461 average tax rate) and State of North Carolina (.00673 average tax rate) based upon FY ’18-’19 tax rate information,” said Roland.
With the proposed ad valorem tax increase, the county’s budget would top $52,834,035, a $1.8 million increase over the current year’s budget. The majority of the increase to the budget would go to directly fund needs within Macon County Schools.
The county’s budget presentation spanned nearly two hours and included an explanation of every capital and operating expense in each county department. At the time of the presentation, it was the first time county commissioners had the chance see the budget. Roland’s presentation marks the first step in the budget process which will now be followed by work sessions to tweak and change the budget based on public input, department needs, and commissioner recommendations. The full budget is available online at Maconnc.gov, and at any of the library locations within Macon County. Commissioners will meet for the first budget work session on Tuesday, May 21, at 6 p.m. During the first work session, commissioners will meet with Sheriff Robert Holland and Emergency Management Director Warren Cabe to discuss Public Safety budget items and the Macon County Board of Education to discuss public education needs. The Scaly Mountain and Highlands Fire Departments will also be present to explain to commissioners why they are seeking an increase to their fire district tax.
Editor’s note: Next week, we will look more in depth at the budget proposal and break down the budget for each department within Macon County.