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Financial
Jul 2, 2015

New Budget Reflects New Hanover County’s Priorities for Coming Year

Sponsored Content provided by Chris Coudriet - County Manager, New Hanover County Government

New Hanover County’s budget for the 2015-16 year, which began on July 1, puts our focus on strategic management. In simple terms, that means aligning this year’s revenue and spending with the county’s long-term priorities, all with a goal of long-term financial sustainability.
 
This year’s $302 million General Fund is a commitment to good governance that holds overall spending constant while increasing support for superior public education; superior public health and safety; and funding economic development and intelligent growth, the three strategic priority areas for fiscal year 2015-16.
 
The budget does include a two-cent increase in the property tax. What’s important to note is that this two cents will be set aside in a debt service fund that will only go to pay debts that voters have approved through bond referenda. None of the additional tax will go toward funding general operations of the county.
 
It is also important to note that property owners outside the City of Wilmington and the beach towns will see their fire service district tax reduced to seven cents, an 11 percent drop. Another change that will save money for both residents and businesses: This budget lowers the tipping fee for depositing solid waste at the county landfill. That fee will now be $52 a ton, $3 less than last year or an 18.7 percent decrease.
 
The budget was approved by the board of commissioners on June 22. What follows are some highlights, which help tell the story of how the county will wisely spend the revenues you’ve entrusted to us. 
 
First, I’d like to say a bit more about strategic management. While the budget covers just 12 months, it is meant to advance the county’s longer-term objectives, as set by the commissioners and, through bond issues, by the voters. Strategic management includes aligning our resources to meet our priorities, meeting ongoing obligations, and planning for the county’s long-term financial health.
 
The $302 million General Fund is based on a property tax rate of 57.4 cents per $100 of property value. That supports a staff of 1,538 full-time positions, an increase of six positions.
 
The new budget was enacted in the context of favorable economic conditions. That includes a 22 percent increase in collections by the Register of Deeds, an indicator of increased real estate activity; a very modest inflation forecast of 1 percent, according to Kiplinger’s Economic Outlook; and a forecast 15 percent increase in sales tax revenue.
 
The largest single category in the county budget is public education. Support for operation and debt service in the New Hanover County Schools and Cape Fear Community College accounts for 40 percent of the overall county budget. These are some specifics of how local tax funds are investing in superior public education.

  • $93.7 million for the public schools’ operation and capital needs
  • $11.5 million for Cape Fear Community College
  • $1.4 million for additional school resource officers to supplement those funded by the state
An additional budget item related to education is the planned relocation of the Carolina Beach branch library to the Snows Cut Crossing shopping center.
 
To continue support for superior public health and safety, the budget includes these items:
  • Relocation of Health Services to the new Public Health Clinic. This will allow improved patient flow and also frees space for Social Services teams.
  • Increased funding for mental health crisis intervention.
  • Continuing the transition from volunteer to professional fire-fighting capability, the county will spend $650,000 to acquire the Ogden Fire Station from the Ogden Volunteer Fire Association.
  • Reduction of the solid waste tip fees will save on trash collection costs. At the same time, recycling capacity is being enhanced, with the objective of saving landfill space.
  • $1 million has been committed for a backup 911 and Emergency Operations Center.
Highlights of the county’s capital planning for this year include replacement of the heating and air-conditioning systems at the Main and Northeast libraries, for $253,000; the second phase of the Health Department renovations, for $414,000; relocation of the Register of Deeds office to the renovated county office building at 320 Chestnut St.; replacement of 31 vehicles, including 26 for the Sheriff’s Department; and approval to move forward on the project to bring water and sewer to the Highway 421 corridor.
 
Among the strategic priorities mentioned earlier are these economic development goals for the next two years, through June 2017: Private investment in New Hanover County should total $1 billion, creating 6,000 new jobs, and raising the average weekly wage by 10 percent.
 
Finally, I’d like to say a few words about the county’s human capital. Most important to delivering on the model of good governance is investing in our county team. The success of the organization is directly attributed to the passion, talent and commitment to public service our staff demonstrates day in and day out.
 
In numerical terms, that includes making a 1.7 percent cost of living adjustment in pay rates. The budget also provides for a 2 percent pool for merit raises, providing for a range of potential awards based on employee performance. We are continuing our emphasis on wellness for county employees and containing health care costs through utilization of our on-site clinic, offering education and fitness programs, and incentivizing employees to improve and maintain their health and reduce health risks.
 
New Hanover County is committed to progressive public policy, superior service, courteous contact, judicious exercise of authority, and sound fiscal management to meet the needs and concerns of our citizens today and tomorrow - See more at: http://www.nhcgov.com.
 

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