The three-day retreat at the Grandover Hotel in Greensboro kicked off the FY2020 budget season that culminates with a new County budget in June.
The conference was streamed on MeckNC.gov and broadcast live on Spectrum’s The Government Channel 16.
The annual conference presents the Board of County Commissioners with multiple topics, issues and decisions facing the Board now and in the future. It culminates with a priority setting session and input for the County Manager to develop her proposed FY2020 budget.
Below are the highlights from each day. Complete retreat information is available here.
Day 3 Highlights:
The final day of the budget retreat centered on Mecklenburg County’s financial forecast and priority setting.
—Finance Director Sarah Lyberg itemized Mecklenburg County’s revenue, fund balance and fiscal status heading into the FY2020 budget season. Lyberg said that while revenue is projected to grow in FY20, the pace of that growth is expected to slow. Board discussion centered on how the County’s healthy financial position can be leveraged to fund community priorities and set a revenue neutral tax rate in a revaluation year.
—An overview of FY19’s operating budget provided commissioners with a snapshot of current revenue and spending across the County. Budget Director Mike Bryant highlighted multiple new items being funded or expanded this year. Examples include funding 600 universal Pre-K positions, additional money for Park and Recreation maintenance and facilities and overtime for Youth and Family Services workers, among others. Bryant also reported that the County’s FY19 total revenue is up approximately $55 million over FY18. Discussion included how years of fiscal discipline have positioned the County to handle any economic situation.
—Bryant also reported the results of the recent Resident Budget Priority survey. More than 1,600 respondents said that education, health and human services, affordable housing, the environment, economic development, recreation facilities, and criminal justice were their top priorities. Discussion included a desire to collect continuous public feedback and expressing appreciation for being asked their opinion in advance of the budget process.
—A Board priority setting exercise wrapped up the conference. Commissioners said their top budget priorities included racial disparity, funding Pre-K, affordable housing, mental health support, and parks and greenways.
The meeting ended with the Board adopting its budget agenda for the next several months leading to the Manager presenting her proposed FY2020 budget May 2.
Day 2 Highlights:
The transformation of the County’s Human Resources Department began the second day of the retreat.
—HR Director Paula Herman presented the Board a comprehensive, methodical, three-year overhaul of the County’s recruiting, training, benefits and pay systems. Discussion included the Board’s desire to increase hourly wages for 89 County employees who earn less than $15 an hour to at least that amount.
—Health and Human Services took center stage next. Board members discussed DSS, Public Health, Community Support Services, and the Community Resource Centers with the directors of those departments. Collectively, HHS provides dozens of services to hundreds of thousands of customers each year. HHS has nearly 2,000 workers and an annual FY19 budget of $363 million.
—County Economist Brandon Simmons outlined Mecklenburg County’s economic outlook. He reported that Mecklenburg County’s economy remains strong, but growth in the County’s economy is expected to slow slightly beginning later this year and into 2020.
—With 377,000 property value notices in the mail, Assessor Ken Joyner updated the Board on the County’s first revaluation since 2011. As of January 2019, County home values rose 40 percent on average as of January 2019. Businesses rose 70 percent on average. Discussion centered on gentrification, tax rates and the desire to move to a more frequent revaluation cycle. Go to MeckReval.com for more.
—Following the revaluation discussion, Budget Director Mike Bryant provided multiple scenarios regarding how reval might affect tax bills, as well as a discussion regarding a revenue neutral tax rate. The tax rate is set by the Board at the end of the budget season in June. Questions and answers centered on revenue neutral and how the different tax rates would affect property owners.
Day 2 concluded with a discussion of written responses to inquires Board members made in advance of the conference. Those responses and of today’s presentations can be found here.
Day 1 Highlights:
With four new Board members, team building kicks off and ends the first day of the retreat, followed by the Community Pulse Report.
Strategic Planning Director Monica Allen painted a broad picture of Mecklenburg County’s current state; including current growth, demographics and future County trends.
Among the highlights—Mecklenburg County is the ninth fastest growing community in the country, older adults represent the fastest growing demographic in the County, and our population continues to become more diverse. Questions and answers centered on how the County would manage the anticipated future growth .
—Finance Director Sarah Lyberg next updated the Board regarding the County’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). Currently, $1.6 billion worth of capital projects have been approved for the next five years. They include CMS projects, CPCC, Park and Recreation, and County buildings and infrastructure. Board discussion centered on how to speed up the CIP process and expand the County’s ability to purchase land.—The current state of Mecklenburg County’s Park and Recreation Department was the next presentation. Director Lee Jones provided the Board a sense of how expansive and diverse the County’s system is countywide. Much of the discussion centered on updating the 2008 park master plan and emphasizing Park and Recreation’s importance in ensuring Mecklenburg County remains a livable place to live, work and recreate.—The next presentation highlighted the FY19 County funding for 600 new Pre-K seats in dozens of classes through the Smart Start program. Board members heard how that expansion is progressing and the need for additional seats. The County has a six-year expansion plan to eventually educate more than 9500 children each year through Pre-K. Tracking the success of participants and how to provide additional opportunities led the discussion. —Day 1 ended by highlighting how the County’s Economic Development Department encourages small businesses and is available to help those businesses get started and succeed.
Day 2 Thursday includes an update on the 2019 Revaluation, a discussion about tax rates and Mecklenburg County’s economic forecast.
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