The 2021-2022 county budget was unanimously adopted by the Alexander County Board of Commissioners at the June 7th meeting. The General Fund budget totals $45,927,097. The budget includes no property tax increase and no tax increases in fire districts. There are three fee increases in the new budget.
County Manager Rick French noted that the City of Hickory is increasing water rates by 3 percent, effective July 1, 2021. The budget includes an increase in EMS fees which puts Alexander County in line with similar counties in terms of population, size, etc. There has not been an EMS fee increase since 2013. The budget also includes a $5 increase in landfill fees for C&D (construction and demolition) and MSW (municipal solid waste). French said the transfer station needs a new floor, which will cost $180,000. There have been no landfill fee increases for over 10 years.
The 2021-2022 budget includes numerous capital outlay items. Those items include: four vehicles with equipment for Sheriff’s Office – $230,000; ambulance box on a new chassis – $100,000; installation of HVAC at Sheriff’s Office evidence storage building – $100,000; Information Technology upgrades (Linney’s Mountain tower upgrade, new core network routers, and backup recovery licensing) – $149,000; 35 body cameras for Sheriff’s Office – $87,570; new debt on Bethlehem sewer project (begins November 2021) – $306,478; new debt on county water project (began May 2021) – $316,243; two vehicles for DSS – $48,000; and impact of April 2021 2.5 percent COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) on 2021-2022 budget – $410,000.
The budget also includes 13 new employees, with eight paramedics, one information technology employee, one garage employee, one staff attorney, one revaluation data entry clerk, and one DSS income maintenance trainer/quality assurance supervisor.
“We appreciate the hard work that has gone into the preparation of this budget,” said Larry Yoder, Chairman. “Our county continues to remain in good financial shape.”
In other business:
• Commissioners approved a rezoning request from RCSI Properties, LLC (Royale Comfort Seating) to rezone 10.45 acres on Alspaugh Dam Road from RA-20 (residential-agricultural) to L-I (light industrial). The company plans to construct a 37,500 square foot manufacturing and storage facility on the property, which is adjacent to the current Royale Comfort Seating facility. Seth Harris, Zoning Administrator, said the land use is consistent with the 2008 comprehensive plan. The Alexander County Planning & Zoning Committee and planning staff recommended approval of the rezoning request.
• David Moose, Compliance & Procurement Specialist, presented an update on the county’s broadband project with Open Broadband. He said county staff met online with Open Broadband on May 14 to discuss the project, which is being completed in two phases. Moose said work is progressing on phase one, which involves installing equipment on towers on Willie McLeod Road and Moore Mountain. He said phase two is still in development as Open Broadband is seeking cost-effective solutions to provide internet to the eastern and southeastern areas of the county.
Nick Steward, Western NC Area Manager for Open Broadband, was also in attendance. He was hired by the company about three months ago, but has extensive broadband deployment experience. Steward said Open Broadband staff is purchasing new equipment for phase one, while at the same time continuing to conduct signal tests at homes that may be served by the original pilot program as new hubs are added. It was noted that the public should be aware that Open Broadband employees are visiting local residences. Steward said his goal is to connect as many people to the internet as possible, with a focus on the unserved and underserved.
• County Manager French presented a sales tax update, noting that revenues have been better than projected. For regular sales tax through February 2021, the county has received approximately $4,609,000, which is almost 94 percent of what was budgeted while only 75 percent through the budget year. For the new sales tax (can only be used for economic development, education, and community college), the county has received approximately $1,267,000, which is 86 percent of what was budgeted.
• Commissioners adopted Grant Project Budget Ordinance No. P-3, which adds $3,641,677 in revenues from the American Rescue Plan Act to be used for water infrastructure. The board also approved five budget amendments.
• In the County Manager’s report, French said that NC House Bill 947, which would provide state assistance to counties to expand broadband, passed the first reading.
French said he and staff attended a preconstruction meeting with Lail Builders to discuss the Alexander County Courthouse Park project, which will take 120 days to complete.
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; however, the next meeting is set for Monday, June 21 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 www.alexandercountync.gov/commissioners.