Jackson County Manager Don Adams presented his 2022-23 fiscal year recommended budget to the Jackson County Board of Commissioners totaling $82,292,740. Adams informed commissioners that the budget is 8.39 percent ($6,372,313) more than the current year’s budget with the increase in expenditures coming from increased revenue sources as well as a proposed two-cent tax increase. Adams’ budget recommended increasing Jackson County’s Ad Valorem (property tax) rate from .36 to .38.
The bulk of the two-cent tax increase would be used for the debt service payment for the new pool construction that was approved by voters on a referendum last year. At $1.9 million, the debt service payment accounts for the majority of funding priorities in the county’s Facility Capital Improvement Plan.
To focus on employee recruitment and retention, Adams’ budget includes a one-step salary increase for all employees.
“It is recommended that all employees move up one step in the current grade and step plan,” said Adams. “This action is necessary to maintain the career path system. Approximately $385,004 is budgeted to implement a one-step increase for all employees.”
While the budget includes a one-step increase, the current proposal does not include a COLA (cost of living adjustment) for employees.
Adams proposed adjusting positions within the county — for social services, Adams’ proposed to extend the IMC II-Support Specialist position one additional year as the position is already budgeted and is cost-shared with the State. In the County’s GIS department, Adams’ recommended that the GIS analyst position be moved into the IT Department.
With Public Safety serving as the largest budget item, a bulk of budget includes $336,000 to replace eight vehicles within the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.
Capital needs across the county, but primarily in public safety will cost the county almost $2.5 million. Assorted new equipment will cost about $1 million and includes computers, servers, printers and software; equipment for garage, cleaning, grounds maintenance and recreation; law enforcement radios, cameras, a body scanner and emergency communication equipment.
“It is recommended that the majority of these expenses be delayed until after the audit is complete,” said Adams.
Adams’ proposed increasing the county’s allocation to public schools by 2 percent to get a total of $8.6 million. The County’s $8.6 million includes $7,168,303 for current operations, $141,928 for PILT Funding, $847,067 in teacher supplements and $442,799 for counselors.
The proposed budget allocates $2.5 million to Southwestern Community College, a 5.5% increase from the previous fiscal year, and $1.2 million to the Fontana Regional Library System, which operates both the Jackson County Library and the Albert Carlton Library in Cashiers.
Adams’ budget includes a 7.4 percent increase in the allocations to the Canada, Savannah, Balsam, and Qualla Volunteer Fire Departments and the Glanville-Cashiers & Jackson County Rescue Squads with matching funds being available for equipment purchased under grant funding.
The Sylva Fire Department is earmarked to be funded at $1,074290 at the request of the Sylva Town Board. The funding will enable to the department to have paid members on staff 24/7. The proposed funding amounts would be used to fund eight full-time fire personnel.
The Cullowhee Fire Department is being funded at $1,076,789, which is what they requested. This will enable to the department to continue having paid members on staff 24/7.
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners have scheduled a public hearing for the proposed budget 5:55 p.m. June 7.