County Manager Rick French presented the proposed 2022-2023 budget to the Alexander County Board of Commissioners at the May 16 meeting. The proposed budget includes a four cent property tax decrease, which would lower the tax rate to 75 cents per $100 valuation, if approved. A public hearing to discuss the proposed budget is scheduled for June 6, with the adoption of the budget set for June 20.
French said the proposed General Fund budget totals $52,385,587, compared to the 2021-2022 budget which currently stands at $50,741,302. The budget includes $6.6 million of appropriated fund balance. 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 three percent increase in water rates, pending approval of the Hickory City Council.
The recommended General Fund budget includes a five percent cost of living increase for employees totaling $937,000, an increase of $312,000 in General Fund appropriations to volunteer fire departments, and a $252,368 increase in county appropriation to Alexander County Schools. Capital outlay items in the proposed budget include expanding the fiber/internet network for certain county facilities ($115,000), an alignment machine for the county garage ($55,000), four vehicles for the Sheriff’s Office ($244,000), replacement of the boiler at the courthouse ($150,000), replacement of radio system/equipment for 911 Communications ($50,000), one ambulance remount ($114,000), one power lift for EMS ($60,000), replacement of two DSS vehicles ($53,000), and replacement of the roof on the Sheriff’s Office evidence storage building ($140,000).
The proposed budget includes the following new full-time employees: Assistant County Manager, Planner, Accounting Assistant – Payroll, License Plate Agency staff position, Paralegal, Environmental Health staff position, Dental Assistant, Animal Control Officer, and Park Assistant. In addition, part-time or seasonal positions are recommended for the Parks and Recreation Department to work at Wittenburg Access Area and Alexander County Courthouse Park.
The County Manager said the 2022-2023 fiscal year will see the completion of two substantial utility projects — the Alexander County Water Expansion Project and the Bethlehem Sewer Extension Project — both of which began in the 2018-2019 fiscal year. These two projects will provide reliable services for citizens and businesses while enhancing economic development opportunities.
French added that the county is in the early stages of implementing grant-funded projects that resulted from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The majority of ARPA funds received by the county will be used to construct new water lines for unserved areas. In addition, the state budget has approved grants for an elevated water storage tank in Bethlehem and a sewer extension along Rink Dam Road to Bowman Court.
A copy of the proposed 2022-2023 budget is on file with the Clerk to the Board and is available for public inspection.