Gary L Herman
ALEXANDER COUNTY (May 11, 2021) – County Manager Rick French presented the proposed 2021-2022 county budget to the Alexander County Board of Commissioners at the regular meeting held on Monday, May 10.
The proposed General Fund budget for fiscal year 2021-2022 totals $45,598,762. French said that departmental requests totaled $48,009,438, but he and staff worked to trim the requests. There is no property tax increase in the proposed budget. The original budget for 2020-2021 totaled $42,892,442 and currently stands at $49,082,437.
The proposed 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.
French said that 20 new employees were requested by county departments, but he only recommends hiring 13 additional employees, including 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.
French said it is possible that some of the expenditures could be paid using funds that the county will receive from the American Rescue Plan.
Greg Cronk, Director of Information Technology, explained the IT capital needs that are proposed in the budget. He said with the current broadband project, the Linney’s Mountain tower needs to be upgraded to increase its load capacity at a cost of approximately $40,000. The core network routing switches in both county datacenters are seven years old and have been experiencing some issues, and need to be replaced at a cost of about $90,000. Cronk said the IT department also needs $15,000 for additional licensing for backup recovery.
Doug Gillispie, Director of Public Services, said he believes the eight additional paramedics are necessary to serve the emergency medical needs of citizens in a timely manner. If approved, there would be three ambulances at EMS Station #1 (Hwy. 90 East), one ambulance at EMS Station #2 (Hwy. 127), and one ambulance at EMS Station #3 (NC Hwy. 16 North). Gillispie said the additional manpower to run another ambulance will enhance coverage throughout the county.
Gillispie also reported on the need to increase EMS fees for various services. Most of the fees could increase by $50 or more, depending on the service provided. The increases would put Alexander County in line with similar counties in terms of population, size, etc. Currently, EMS collects approximately $1.2 million annually, but with the fee increases that number would total about $1.5 million, which would help pay the salaries of the additional paramedics that are proposed. There has not been an EMS fee increase since 2013.
French noted that the City of Hickory is proposing a 3 percent increase in water rates, effective July 1, 2021, subject to approval by the Hickory City Council. Water connection fees were reduced in June 2019, and the lower connection fees will remain in effect until January 2022.
The proposed budget also includes a $5 increase in landfill fees, including both 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 increases for over 10 years.
Commissioners will hold a public hearing regarding the proposed budget on Monday, May 24 at 6:00 p.m. at the CVCC Alexander Center for Education.
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, May 24 at 6:00 p.m. at CVCC. 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.