Cumberland County Executive Amy Cannon on Thursday, May 26, presented the county’s recommended fiscal year 2023 budget to the Board of Commissioners at a specially called meeting.

The county tax rate remains unchanged at 79.9 cents per $100 of assessed property value. Every penny on the tax rate produces $2,427,268. The budget is balanced, as required by the North Carolina Commission on Local Government, Cannon told commissioners.

The budget takes into account council priorities established in fiscal year 2021, which include the Crown Event Center to replace the Crown Theater and Crown Arena, public water access for Gray’s Creek and reduction of the roaming.

The recommended budget calls for total expenditures of $552,930,111 for all county funds and a general fund of $362,177,033.

In his budget message to commissioners, Cannon outlined the issues facing county government in the upcoming budget cycle. The first of these is what she called “the new normal,” a changed work environment brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has resulted in new organizational structures where employees have been forced to work from home and adapt to new technologies.

“Uncertainty remains. Remote work remains,” she said. The new normal also includes electronic service delivery, an erratic economic recovery, and the potential for a new COVID-19 variant that may affect service delivery.

The budget also takes into account the prevailing economic uncertainty. Cannon said another major factor affecting county operations is inflation, currently at 8.5%, which is eroding the purchasing power of county residents and the county government. Along with inflation, the county must adjust to steadily rising fuel prices and supply chain issues.

Cannon projected General Fund revenue from ad valorem taxes at $170,695,791, an increase of $2 million from fiscal year 2022. Motor vehicle tax revenue is budgeted at $23,242 $940, an increase of $1 million from 2022.

She said ad valorem taxes are the biggest source of revenue with 55% of total budget revenue. These taxes are based on the combined values ​​of real estate, personal property and motor vehicles of approximately $194 million. Property and personal taxes are budgeted at $170.7 million, an increase of $2 million from last year.

Some of the major county spending highlights include:
● Unfunded mandates, including increasing health insurance rates, increasing employers’ contributions to the pension system, increasing property and cybersecurity insurance, and funding a North Carolina Department of Public Safety to align the county’s share of youth detention center costs with operating costs.
● Additional Commission priorities identified in fiscal year 2021 relating to mental health and public health.
● A pilot program that develops a proactive prevention program addressing social harms to health.
● Another patient transportation pilot program for public health clinics using Uber or Lift.
● A volunteer coordinator for the animal services department.
● A deputy director for the emergency department.
● Replacement of 19 Sheriff’s Office vehicles and two Detention Center vehicles.
● A public health educator and a public health unit assistant
● A social services program manager and a pilot case management and home care coordination program with 16 staff and two vehicles.
● A child support quality assurance program training specialist.

The recommended budget also includes $84.3 million for Cumberland County Schools, an increase of $1.3 million from fiscal year 2022. There is also an additional $3.9 million for the school system for school health nurses, school resource officers and school crossing guards.

Cannon ended his hour-long budget message by talking about the Great Quit, a national phenomenon in which workers quit their jobs in droves. Cannon said employees left for better pay because they were mentally exhausted, wanted a flexible work schedule and a better work-life balance. She said the Cumberland County government was not immune to this.

The commissioners will digest the recommended budget and begin their work session June 1 at 5:30 p.m. in Room 564 of the Judge E. Maurice Braswell Cumberland County Courthouse. The public hearing on the budget is scheduled for June 6 at 7 p.m. Thereafter, the Commissioners will have three more working sessions.

The recommended budget is available on the county’s website at cumberlandcountync.gov.