County budget tops $20 million


Property taxes will not be increased

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    Pixabay Image

Clay County Commissioners approved a $20 million-plus budget during a public hearing June 29 and it includes good news for taxpayers. The property tax rate will not increase and remains at .43 mils per $100 valuation, according to the budget report provided by County Manager Debbie Mauney.

The largest source of income for the $20,030,789 budget is ad valorem taxes which are projected to bring in $8,148,936 in revenue. While the pandemic has affected many aspects of daily life, Mauney said as of June the county had not experienced a shortfall in tax revenue. However, she said the county had incurred additional expenses during the pandemic with essential employees overtime being among them.

In May Rep. Kevin Corbin announced that Clay County would receive $432,732 through the COVID-19 Relief Act to cover expenses related to the pandemic.

“Our departments have done an excellent job working together to ensure that all of our county offices have sufficient personal protective equipment such as masks and hand sanitizer. These supplies have been donated by IOI, the Dogwood Health Foundation, Red Cross and DHHS,” Mauney said. “COVID relief money will be used for glass windows in county offices to limit exposure for our employees and the public. The funds will also be used for deep cleaning of public buildings, teleworking equipment, essential employees’ salaries and benefits that have been dedicated to combating COVID-19.” 

The county budget became effective July 1 and includes a 3 percent cost of living increase for the county’s 142 full-time and 41 part-time employees. Retirement contributions also rose from 9.02 percent to 10.23 percent.

“As the FY 20-21 budget was being framed, time was spent considering employee morale, turnover and recruitment and ways to continue our commitment to providing a top-notch workforce to service our citizens,” Mauney said in her report to the commission board. “This increase helps the county stay competitive in a high-demand, shrinking workforce.” 

In addition to the workforce, this year’s budget appears to focus on enhancing health and safety in the county. 

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office will receive $2,932,972, an increase of $134,963 from last year’s budget, according to information posted by Commission Chairman Rob Peck. An additional $100,000 has been allocated to the department for capital improvements. 

Sheriff Bobby Deese said his staff has already been making improvements such as painting the office, but guns, tasers, a new vehicle and upgrading the phone system are among their needs.

In addition, through grant funding, officials are working to establish a 911 center facility including associated building systems, technology systems and outfitting the facility. If grant funds are secured, she said the project will begin in January 2021.

“Since October of 2019 we have received $486,381.60 in grant awards with another $5.3 million in awards pending. This includes the potential award of $4.8 million for a new 911 facility,” Peck wrote. 

In addition to a new primary school for Pre-K through second grade tentatively scheduled for completion in September,  a new sports complex is under construction. The projected $2 million complex will be located on 17 acres of county-owned property off Myers Chapel Road. 

The property was purchased about 12 years ago and was intended as the site for a new grammar school; however, the Army  Corps of Engineers designated it as a flood plain. Thus, it became the site for the new sports complex. The new grammar school is being built where the sports complex was initially planned.

The county has applied for matching funds from the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund for phase II of the new sports complex which could add pickle ball courts, walking path and bridge connecting the complex to the recreation building.

Older citizens in the county will also reap benefits from grant money. The Clay County Senior Citizens Center on Ritter Road is going through a major renovation.

“ The county is remodeling the senior center which is way overdue,” Mauney said. “Painting, new floors, updating equipment and facilities, new cabinets and the replacement of windows are in the works now.  The estimated cost is approximately $100,000 which hopefully will be no cost to the county.”

Mauney said the county has  received $49,000 from the Home and Community Block Grant Cares money, a $5,000 Blue Cross grant for a freezer and they have applied for a $100,000 grant from the Highlands Health Foundation. 

“These updates will help with future social distancing  and sanitation of the building,” she said. “This is an excellent time to remodel as all activities for seniors have been postponed due to the COVID-19 epidemic except home delivered meals.”

The county commission’s monthly meeting has been moved to 6:45 p.m. Thursday, July 23. It is held in the multi-purpose room of the courthouse.