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Mecklenburg County unveils record $218 million budget

SoVaNow.com / May 08, 2019
Employee salaries, schools and public safety are the main focus of Mecklenburg County’s proposed $218 million budget for the coming fiscal year, starting July 1.

Despite expenditures that are $50 million above the current budget of $168,444,884, the draft budget comes with no increase in taxes or fees.

On Tuesday, the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors’ Budget and Finance Committee approved a proposed budget that includes an additional $5.2 million for schools, another $328,000 for the Sheriff’s Office and $125,000 for the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office. The package also provides 5 percent pay raises for most county government workers.

The E-911 Center will receive $136,000 more than the current budget to cover the cost of ongoing upgrades to the communication system, in addition to the 5 percent pay increase for the staff.

School personnel — teachers, administrators, bus drivers, kitchen and maintenance personnel and support staff — will receive a 3 percent raise and most, but not all personnel, will qualify for an additional pay scale salary adjustment. According to Superintendent of Schools Paul Nichols, the combined salary adjustment equates to a 5 percent pay raise, and in some cases more.

A few members of the Central Office school administration will receive less than 5 percent increase in salary.

Nichols thanked supervisors for their support, telling them that the combination of the salary increases and pay scale adjustment “will put the [school] division in a position to be somewhat competitive” as they try to attract new and qualified teachers to the county. “There was never a time this year that we were not short eight teachers,” said Nichols.

He also called the improved salary “a morale booster” that has encouraged several teachers to remain with the school division.

County Administrator Wayne Carter said he expects this will be the highest budget the Board of Supervisors “will see for some time.”

The operating budget covers some or all of the general operating expenses for the multiple agencies in the county as well as fire and rescue services, Meherrin River Regional Jail, and local airports. The operating portion of the budget came in at $121,414,745, about $16 million more than was approved for the current fiscal 2018-2019 year.

Collectively, the general operating budgets for the Sheriff’s Office, Social Services, Commonwealth’s Attorney, Meherrin River Regional Jail, corrections and pretrial services are up $580,700 over the current year. While some of that increase is attributed to pay raises for the employees, the majority will pay for expansion of services needed to combat the county’s drug problems.

Proposed capital expenditures are $97 million for fiscal year 2019-2020, with $83.3 million of that spent on construction of the county’s new consolidated secondary school complex. Another $740,000 will pay for maintenance and upgrades of existing school facilities.

Capital expenditures are up $34 million over current spending levels, nearly all of it going toward school facilities.

According to Brian Dalton, head of operations for the school division, the $740,000 will be used to repave parking lots at Bluestone and Park View High Schools, upgrade the heating controls at both high and middle schools since the existing controls are obsolete, paint the halls, exterior and restrooms at South Hill Elementary School, install new vinyl tile flooring in parts of La Crosse, Chase City and South Hill elementary schools, remove dead trees around Chase City and Clarksville elementary schools and purchase new active panels to replace existing and obsolete promethean boards.

Active panels are large touch screen interactive boards used for teaching.

Dalton said that even though work is progressing on a new secondary school campus, the current buildings must be maintained while they are still being used. He also anticipates using the existing high schools after the new campus opens, while renovations take place at La Crosse, Chase City and Clarksville elementaries.

The current thinking is to move students into the high school buildings during construction at the elementary schools. Only one school will be upgraded in any given year.

Carter’s proposed Capital Improvement Plan anticipates starting renovations on the first of three elementary schools in fiscal year 2023, which begins July 1, 2022 and ends June 30, 2023. There are no major renovations planned for South Hill Elementary School, the newest of the county’s existing facilities.

The county expects to spend $150,00 to renovate the old Bruce Library Building in Boydton, turning it into the new offices of the General Registrar. Another $750,000 is set aside to cover the cost of asbestos removal and demolition of the former Buckhorn Elementary School that closed in 2012.

Economic development spending is up $500,000 for the coming year as the county anticipates spending $1 million to improve access to Herbert Drive from U.S. 58 — the road leading to the entrance of the Microsoft Data Center — and another $1.6 million to clear the debris field left from the demolition of the Mecklenburg Correctional facility on Prison Road in Boydton. Carter said he expects much of those outlays to be reimbursed from state funds.

Mecklenburg anticipates revenue of $121,629,687 in general operating funds and an additional $96,349,211 in earmarked funds for a grand total of $217,979,078. Included in those totals are $31,934,678 from state and federal sources for the school division, $1,694,000 from the state for Social Services, $1,664,571 in reimbursements to the sheriff’s office and just under $1.3 million in reimbursements to the Commonwealth’s Attorney, Clerk of Court and Piedmont Court Services.

Carter said he transferred $800,000 from the School’s Capital Outlay fund to ensure that projected revenues covered proposed expenditures.

The Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the budget on May 15 at 4 p.m. at the County Administration Building, 350 Washington Street, Boydton. A vote by the entire board approving the budget is set for May 22 at 5:30 p.m.

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