Polk County Manager presents proposed balanced county budget for fiscal year 2019-2020

COLUMBUS (May 6, 2019) – At the Polk County Board of Commissioners meeting tonight, Polk County Manager Marche Pittman presented a recommended balanced County budget for the upcoming fiscal year that includes expenditures to improve public safety and ensure the continuance of Polk County Schools’ after-school program.

The proposed County budget of $32,867,674 is balanced in accordance with the requirements of the Local Government Budget and Fiscal Control Act. Polk County operates under an annual balanced budget ordinance as required by North Carolina statutes, meaning the sum of estimated net revenues and appropriated fund balance in each fund shall be equal to appropriations in that fund. State statutes also require that the County operate on a fiscal year beginning July 1 and ending June 30.

Like all North Carolina counties, Polk County receives revenue from several different areas throughout the budget year, including property tax, fees and permits, sales and service tax. For the upcoming fiscal year, an increase in sales tax revenue has been budgeted based on projected growth in the economy identified by state sources and local trends.

The recommended budget includes a tax rate for the 2019-2020 fiscal year of .5494. This includes a .02 cent tax increase that addresses the Polk County School’s After School Program and rising public safety costs and uses fund balance appropriation for some one-time capital expenditures to balance the budget.

“Polk County’s assessed valuation in the current year has shown growth from the 2018 budgeted valuation,” Polk County Manager Marche Pittman said. “This has come from real property improvements, business personal property and motor vehicle valuation increases. This growth is allowing the County to better absorb necessary increases in expenditures with a lesser increase in the tax rate.”

Proposed budget addresses rising public safety costs, after-school program funding

Rising public safety costs addressed in the recommended budget include a radio communications project, increases in staffing at the Polk County Law Enforcement Center and Sheriff’s Office, the Debt Service Payment for the new jail and the replacement of patrol cars. Public Safety expenditures have risen about 38% in the last five fiscal years which equates to about $2 million in overall expenditures.

“Growth in our community is putting pressure on our resources. This will require us to be prepared to provide responses to recommendations from our departments in future year’s budgets,” Pittman said. “Similar to last year, we are seeing an increased demand for all of our resources, including public safety, the Consolidated Human Services and capital improvements. We will have to think strategically about how we provide the needed resources over the coming years.”

Polk County Schools is the biggest single department in the upcoming fiscal year budget with its total allocation for 2019-2020 being about $5,741,441.Superintendent Aaron Greene is requesting that the County permanently fund the after-school program – known as the Polk Enrichment Academy for Kids (PEAK) – as their top priority since no grants for the program could be found. The special appropriation amount is approximately $299,386 or the equivalent of one cent on the tax rate (.01).

For 12 years, Polk County Schools received a federal grant for after-school programming that enabled the district to offer high quality academic, enrichment, and social experiences to often more than 300 children during the school year.  The loss of federal funding at the end of the 2015-2016 year left the school district with the options of discontinuing the program, seeking alternative funding or charging families for participation.

During the 2016-2017 school year, Polk County Schools operated a fee-based model of after-school programming with a sliding scale to serve students. Even after receiving more than $70,000 in donations from individuals and organizations in the community, student enrollment and participation was cut in half. An inability to afford the program was cited as the primary reason by parents and the district learned that many older students previously served by the program were going home after school to an empty house or taking care of younger siblings. Believing there was a significant need to serve students and families, Polk County Schools approached Polk County Commissioners for assistance and they funded all costs for 2018-2019. Student participation is now back to its former level, with the program close to reaching 300 children once again. 

“I believe strongly that the PEAK program is extremely valuable and important to our students and families,” Greene said. “Each year, Polk County Schools is among the highest performing school districts in the state, number one last year in fact. We consistently find that PEAK is a large part of our students’ success. Being able to offer great programming, providing necessary academic intervention, support for homework completion and enrichment opportunities after the regular school day has such a positive impact on achievement. Students also have their social and emotional needs addressed by being in a caring environment, known and valued by others, and expected achieve. Perhaps most importantly, PEAK offers a safe, welcoming, and structured place for students to be after school. This helps families and parents who may have to work beyond 3:00 pm and prevents students from having to be alone after school.”

Expenditures on Solid Waste building and Lake Adger Dam required by North Carolina

Two expenditures in the upcoming fiscal year budget are based on requirements by the North Carolina Dept. of Environmental Quality.  The Solid Waste building improvement expenditure is to repair, replace and add concrete flooring for the transfer building and trailer pad – maintenance that is required by North Carolina Dept. of Environmental Quality. The dam repair funds are monies that Polk County sends to a capital reserve fund for Lake Adger Dam improvements that must be made in the near future, also required by the state government agency.

The general fund budget is balanced and is increased overall from the current year amended budget by 0.62%. The overall budget, including General Fund, Special Revenue Funds, Capital Project Funds and Enterprise Fund, is decreased by 7.93%, primarily because of jail construction in the current year.

“This budget will allow us to maintain and improve services for our citizens,” Polk County Manager Marche Pittman said. “I appreciate all of the hard work, effort and sacrifice that was put into this process by our department heads. I also appreciate all of your input during the budgeting process and look forward to the coming fiscal year.”

Work sessions for the fiscal year 2019-2020 budget are scheduled for May 20 and 21. No public comments are taken during work sessions. Following a work session on June 3, a public hearing and the regular meeting of the Board of Commissioners where public comments will be taken will be held at 7 p.m., June 3. The budget is scheduled to be adopted on June 17.

For more details about Polk County Manager Pittman’s recommended annual budget, view the 2019-2020 Recommended Budget Package submitted to the Board of Commissioners.