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May 16
Wake Presents $1.2 Billion Recommended Budget

Wake County Manager Jim Hartmann today presented his $1.2 billion recommended budget for Fiscal Year 2017 to the Wake County Board of Commissioners during its regular meeting. His proposal – a $56.8 million increase over the county's FY2016 budget – will help address the increasing demands placed on county services as the population continues to grow on average by 64 people each day.

"Wake County is the second fastest growing county of more than one-million people in the nation," said Hartmann. "We must ensure that we're resourced appropriately to serve our rapidly growing community, and this recommended budget provides a rational and responsible way to do that."

A key component of the recommended budget is a 1.35-cent property tax increase above the revenue neutral rate of 58.7 cents, which would generate nearly $18.8 million in new revenue. At the new rate of 60.05 cents on the average home value of $268,600, the additional tax over the revenue neutral rate would be $36 annually.

This year, the county received requests for new or additional funding in FY2017 from its departments, as well as external partners and the education sector. Those requests totaled about $68 million. After meeting the commitments within its base budget, the county had approximately $30 million to fund these requests.

"There are always more requests than available resources, but this budget is a very good balance of meeting our obligations, strengthening our core services and improving the quality of life for some of our most vulnerable residents while maintaining our commitment to education," Hartmann added. "Normal revenue growth could accomplish the majority of our initiatives, but the tax increase was needed to provide a higher level of funding for the Wake County Public School System than just enrollment growth and opening new schools – approximately four percent beyond base levels."

The recommended budget would fund investments in several focus areas.

Focus Area: Our Commitments
The first area the county focused on in the budget decision-making process was the non-negotiable contracts and commitments on which it must make good.

They include:

  • $2 million for the Board of Elections to hold the presidential election in November;
  • $566,000 to staff and operate the new Middle Creek Library, which is under construction now and scheduled to open in January 2017; and
  • An additional $137,000 for compliance with state-mandated programs such as NCFAST.

Focus Area: Care and Custody of Others
The county also considered how it takes responsibility for those in its care and custody. These are the children under our guardianship, at-risk adults and the people in our jails.

The budget recommends:

  • Adding new 13 positions to our Child Welfare Division at a net cost of $662,000 to enhance the safety of the growing number of youth currently in our care and those the county is monitoring;
  • Investing $757,000 to improve our level of service to the adults under our guardianship. By increasing funding for contracted services and adding five new positions, the county can reduce the average case load and enable staff to spend more time with each client; and
  • Making significant investments at the Wake County Detention Center to ensure the continued health and safety of the inmates, as well as the detention officers. The budget proposes providing $500,000 to enhance the continuum of care for inmates with mental health or substance abuse issues; $600,000 to hire 12 new medical detention officers to supervise the jail's medical and detox units; and $945,000 to add 22 new detention officers to provide more relief staffing, which will reduce the use of overtime to fill the gaps when officers are off work or a position is vacant.

Focus Area: Public Safety
Next, the county reviewed new budget requests that fell under the board goal of public safety. It is our responsibility to make sure that, as the county grows, it is resourced properly to keep residents safe.

The budget proposes:

  • Investing $154,000 in this budget to convert an Eastern Wake EMS shift from 24-hours to 12-hours. This change will better align our resources to meet the growing demand for assistance; and
  • Providing $387,000 to fund six new positions to ensure our Advanced Practice Paramedic program continues to successfully support the increasing need for its service.

In addition, the budget recommends increasing the Fire Tax District rate by 1.48 cents, which would bring the District's total tax rate to 9.6 cents. Residents who live in the unincorporated areas of the county and the Town of Wendell are charged this tax for fire services.

The tax increase would modify the existing funding formula for the Fire Tax District, so it more accurately reflects the cost of providing fire services to the unincorporated areas of our county; implement a comprehensive new pay plan to correct below-market salaries; and increase capital funding for fire trucks and equipment, such as breathing apparatus and turnout gear, to help keep fire crews safe.

Focus Area: Community Health
As the county addressed public safety needs in this budget, it also looked closely at community health.

Because the county is facing a serious mental health and substance abuse problem, it recommends increasing its current commitment of more than $25 million for crisis services, inpatient care, adult treatment and other support programs by $1.1 million. This includes an additional $600,000 to enhance treatment opportunities for people who need access to mental health care without an appointment and after standard business hours.

In addition, the budget proposes:

  • Adding 10 new nurses to the Wake County Public School System to improve the nurse-to-student ratio;
  • Investing $568,000 to hire five new health and safety inspectors and fund one-time costs for vehicles and equipment. With their additional oversight, the county can better monitor water quality and the growing number of restaurants, hotels and pools;
  • Providing better access to food for our residents by contributing $500,000 to the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina through the county's capital fund, increasing funding for Universal School Breakfast from $90,000 to $130,000, and providing $20,000 to Wake Interfaith Food Shuttle to create food pantries in five local schools to help feed the hungry; and
  • Creating a new position to manage two pilot projects – one in southeast Raleigh and the other in eastern Wake County – that will support vulnerable communities.

Focus Area: Great Government
In order to deliver top-notch customer service, the county must have the right resources in place to meet the needs of our 21st century customers.

That is why the budget recommends:

  • Replacing the county's current email system with a new email platform and updating how the county manages its records digitally; and
  • Modernizing our IT structure to place a greater emphasis on integrated technology and leveraging of innovation throughout the organization.

These proposed changes would cost $1.3 million and include creating eight new positions.

In addition, the budget recommends revising our pay structure for hourly employees and making adjustments for salary compression, and providing performance pay for employees who excel at their jobs. These changes would make the county more competitive in the marketplace, so it can better attract and retain great employees.

Focus Area: Quality of Life
The county also considered requests for funding that would help maintain the high quality of life that brings so many people here to live, work, learn and play.

During the recession, the county had to cut back substantially on its library book budget, and it is still trying to catch up from that deficit. That is why the county has included $3.8 million – a $1.5 million increase from FY2016 – in this budget to purchase 200,000 new books for the public library system.

Focus Area: Partner Agencies
Many of the agencies that the county partners with to provide services to its residents also made funding requests for next fiscal year. Among the nine organizations the county proposes funding are SmartStart and the United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County.

  • By providing an additional $162,900 to SmartStart, the county can enable the nonprofit group to add another Pre-K classroom, which will help prepare disadvantaged children in our county for success in kindergarten.
  • Contributing an additional $66,000 to the United Arts Council will allow this organization to pay for transporting 4th grade students to local museums or cultural venues, so they can experience arts and culture firsthand – some for the first time.

Focus Area: Education
This budget also invests in the education of our K-12 students and those who take learning to the next level at Wake Technical Community College.

The county proposes providing a total of $19.8 million to Wake Tech, the largest community college in the state. It would fund:

  • Facility operating costs and start-up costs for new facilities;
  • Hiring additional technology staff; and
  • Efforts to develop a long-range technology master plan to be paid for from the capital fund.

In FY2016, the board gave the Wake County Public School System the largest single funding increase in history – $44.6 million – for operating expenses, which is recurring. That record investment elevated per-pupil funding by almost $200 to $2,453 per student, based on Fall 2016 enrollment.

As the county considered the $35.7 million request from the school board for FY2017, its approach focused on per-pupil spending and the statutory requirement for funding the facility costs of new schools scheduled to open. Utilizing this approach, the county arrived at a per-pupil amount of $2,574 – a $121 increase over the FY2016 per-pupil amount.

Our FY2016 record-setting investment, combined with the $23.9 million we recommend investing in the schools in FY2017, totals $68.5 million – a 20-percent increase in funding over two years. In addition, our education-related expenditures now represent approximately 56 percent of our total county General Fund.

Next Steps
The next step in this process is for the commissioners to hold public hearings on June 6 at 2 p.m. in the boardroom of the Wake County Justice Center and at 7 p.m. at the Wake County Commons. The board will also hold a work session dedicated to the budget on June 13 at 2 p.m.

On June 20, the commissioners will be asked to adopt the FY2017 budget during their normally scheduled 2 p.m. business meeting. In the meantime, residents can learn more about the budget by visiting wakegov.com/budget.


 



 

 

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