County Manager Unveils Fiscal Year 2018 Recommended Budget

CHARLOTTE, NC — County Manager Dena R. Diorio presented her Fiscal Year 2018 Recommended Budget to the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners today.

Diorio presented two budget plans for the Board’s consideration: a FY2018 $1.7-billion Operating Budget that maintains the current tax rate of 81.57 cents and lowers the debt service fund from 20 cents to 19.5 cents, and a FY2019-FY2023 $1.6 billion Capital Improvement Plan.

The Recommended Capital Improvement Plan assumes that a bond referendum of $936.9 million to finance Charlotte-Mecklenburg School projects would be placed on the ballot by the Board this fall.

“Mecklenburg County continues to experience significant growth in its population,” Diorio said. “It is imperative that we manage this growth through the provision of the necessary infrastructure the community deserves today, and in years to come.”

Among the highlights of the Recommended Capital Improvement Plan are major investments in infrastructure as part of a multi-year Capital Improvement Plan for schools, Central Piedmont Community College, libraries and County-owned facilities.

FY2019 – FY2023 Capital Improvement Plan

As part of the Recommended Capital Improvement Plan, Diorio advocated funding for:

10 New Schools and 12 High-Priority School Renovations$936.9 million

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) would receive a significant investment in education facilities as part of the CIP, said Diorio. The plan addresses nearly half of the projects identified in CMS’s 10-year capital needs assessment. Combined with $150 million from the ongoing Capital Maintenance Plan, Mecklenburg County plans to invest more than $1 billion in school facilities over the next six years.

The plan provides for 10 new schools to reduce overcrowding and accommodate student growth, the replacement of old schools, and much needed renovations and additions. The plan would also replace six of the oldest schools in the County: West Charlotte High School, Briarwood Elementary, Collinswood Language Academy, Lansdowne Elementary, Montclaire Elementary, and Shamrock Gardens Elementary.

New Building, Learning Resource Center for CPCC$151.1 million

The Harris Campus project includes a new 68,000-square-foot classroom building, parking, and a retrofit of the existing Harris I building to better accommodate existing programs as well as a new health careers program. The Central Campus project includes the construction of a new Learning Resource Center to support more than 3,500 students and critical middle-skill occupational programs.

New Charlotte Mecklenburg Main Library$65 million

The new Main Library will be a modern facility with meeting and community spaces, and state of the art technology designed to promote learning and innovation. The facility will be the cornerstone of the North Tryon Vision Plan, a partnership with Bank of America, the Charlotte Housing Authority and the City of Charlotte to revitalize a six-acre, two-block section of the North Tryon Street corridor.

New Community Resource Centers, Government District Renovations$170.8 million

The County’s strategy to improve health and human services program delivery includes building six new Community Resource Centers (CRC) in locations where residents need them most.

The first Resource Center, located at the Valerie C. Woodard Center on Freedom Drive, is under construction now and will open in 2018. The recommended Capital Improvement Plan continues the build-out of the CRC implementation plan for locations in the east and southwest parts of the County by 2023, and funding for land acquisition and design for more CRCs in the west and northeast in the future, Diorio said.

The CIP also includes needed renovations to the many facilities in the government district including the County Courts and Office Building, the Johnson Building, and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Government Center.

Park & Recreation$277 million

Funding for Park and Recreation projects continues the County’s commitment to health and wellness, with a focus on greenway expansion and the construction of two new regional recreation centers: the Eastway Regional Recreation Center and the Northern Towns Regional Recreation Center. The plan also provides for renovations for the David B. Waymer Center and land acquisition for future use.

During this CIP cycle, Diorio said, the County will achieve one of its highest priorities: completing the Little Sugar Creek Greenway to the South Carolina state line. Seven greenway projects are included in the plan.

Discovery Place Nature Museum$16 million

Built in 1951, Discovery Place Nature Museum (formerly known as the Charlotte Nature Museum) offers visitors the chance to get close to wildlife and experience nature through hands-on programming, exhibits, and classes. The building is in dire need of updating, Diorio said, and the quality of museum exhibits and interactive learning has rendered it obsolete. She is proposing a County and museum partnership to rebuild the facility at a total cost of $32 million, with the County’s portion being $16 million.

Public Safety Enhancements$32.9 million

The Recommended Capital Improvement Plan includes needed renovations to Jail Central and North, both of which are more than 20 years old.

American Legion Memorial Stadium

In January 2017, the Board of County Commissioners voted to support a proposal to bring major league soccer to Mecklenburg County. The proposal calls for the construction of a new MLS stadium where Memorial Stadium and the Grady Cole Center sit today. The stadium cost of $175 million will be shared by the team, the County and the City of Charlotte. The recommended CIP includes the necessary funding to honor the commitment the County has made to date.

Fiscal Year 2018 Recommended Budget

For the Fiscal Year 2018 Recommended Operating Budget, Diorio recommended continuing on a three-year strategic plan to make investments in County services, programs and initiatives to improve and contribute to the quality of life in the community. Highlights include:

Stable Property Tax Rate

The Recommended Budget keeps the property tax rate at its current level of 81.57 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for the fourth straight year, and lowers the debt service fund from 20 cents to 19.5 cents.

Economic Opportunity, Greater Economic Independence for Residents

In 2013, a Harvard University/UC Berkeley revealed that our community ranked 50th out of 50 in economic mobility among the largest U.S. cities — specifically the ability of a child born into low income households to rise to better-paying jobs as adults. The Charlotte Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force, a group of 20 community members, spent 18 months in 2015 and 2016 focused on poverty and its negative impact on the lives of many Charlotte-Mecklenburg children and youth.

For Fiscal Year 2018, Mecklenburg County will work to incorporate the recommendations of the Economic Opportunity Task Force report into our spending plan.

Early Childhood Care and Education

Another key determinant identified in the Charlotte Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force report is Early Childhood Care and Education. Data suggests that children who have early childhood education experiences are more likely to graduate high school, attend college, increase their earning potential over their lifetime, and reduce the risk of becoming involved in the criminal justice system.

The Fiscal Year 2018 Recommended Budget includes $6 million to expand the child care subsidy program for working families making 200% or below the federal poverty line. As of April 30, 2017, there were 3,488 children on the waiting list for child care subsidy. This $6-million investment will allow 824 children to attend an early childhood program and would eliminate all four- and five-year-olds from the waiting list, Diorio said.

“While this is truly a small step, I believe that Mecklenburg County is poised to be the leader in this area,” she added. “By taking this on as our accountability, we can have a significant impact on economic opportunity in this community.”

College and Career Readiness

Another determinant in the Charlotte Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force Report is College and Career Readiness.

“The Report suggests that we must change the current mindset around technical education and community colleges for students at all income levels,” said Diorio, who recommends fully funding CPCC’s operating budget request of $620,000, a 1.8% increase over Fiscal Year 2017.

Read Charlotte

Read Charlotte is a community initiative that unites families, educators and community partners to improve children’s literacy from birth to third grade with a goal of doubling reading proficiency from 39% to 80% by 2025. Reading proficiency at third grade is a critical predictor of school, career and life success. Children who are not reading at grade level by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school.

The Fiscal Year 2018 Recommended Budget includes $300,000 — $100,000 a year — for three years to support the data collaborative, an investment that will for education-related funding decisions based on metrics and sound practice.

Creation of the Department of Community Resources

The ability to readily access County services in the community is a primary goal for the creation of the six Community Resource Centers, which will function under the new Department of Community Resources. The integration of that service delivery can ensure that residents access all of the services they are eligible for at one time.

Doing this effectively will improve economic conditions for those most in need while doing so in facilities that reflect dignity and respect for those we serve, Diorio said. Seventy positions from the Department of Social Services, Public Health, Child Support Enforcement and Community Support Services will be moved to the new department and three new positions created.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) has requested an increase of $27 million, or 6.5%. The Fiscal Year 2018 Recommended Budget includes an additional $15.3 million, or an increase of 3.7%, which will support the costs of opening new facilities, cost increases for health and retirement benefits, sustaining operations, charter school growth enrollment, and expanded student support services including guidance counselors and social workers.

Affordable Housing Support

Although the creation of affordable housing is not a core responsibility of the County, the County does play a significant role in housing retention, Diorio said. Once people locate affordable housing, some may need supportive services to ensure they can maintain it.

The Fiscal Year 2018 Recommended Budget includes $1.1 million for housing stability and supportive services contracts, including services to homeless individuals and families. It will also fund six mental health clinicians to provide supportive services to the homeless.

Child Protective Services

The Fiscal Year 2018 Recommended Budget includes 18 full-time positions to develop, implement and support a new practice model for Youth and Family Services (YFS). With the help of the Ann E. Casey Foundation, YFS will create all new policies and procedures and train staff on the business model.

In addition, the budget includes funding for the continued implementation of “Safe Measures,” a new case management system specifically designed for child welfare agencies.

Community Health and Wellness

The Recommended Budget includes two full-time Health Program Supervisors to create a Quality Assurance and Improvement Oversight Team. The team will be led by the Medical Director and will include five additional existing positions.

The Quality Assurance and Improvement Oversight Team will be responsible for monitoring quality assurance and improvement activities across Public Health. The team will by manage medical risk, adhere to established program protocols, investigate performance concerns, review audit results, and employ quality improvement principles to enhance operational performance.

More School Nurses

As part of a plan begun in 2015 to put a nurse in every Charlotte-Mecklenburg school, three new nurse positions are recommended for funding in Fiscal Year 2018. The budget also includes $300,000 to create a school nurse “float pool” that will be used on an on-call basis for vacancies, absences, and to support schools with a higher demand for services.

Park and Recreation Enhancements

The Fiscal Year 2018 Recommended Budget includes a $2.8 million increase for the Park and Recreation Department that includes funding for 11 full-time positions, and 16 part-time positions to operate facilities that opened in Fiscal Year 2017 and those that will come online in Fiscal Year 2018.

New Library Materials

In addition to a new Main Library that is funded as part of her Capital Improvement Plan, Diorio recommends investing $1 million in recurring funds to purchase collection materials and $500,000 in non-recurring funding for the same purpose.

Investments in Criminal Justice

The Fiscal Year 2018 budget includes funding for a dedicated full-time position for the Self-Service Center at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse, which will allow the Center to increase its operating hours, and funding for a Juvenile Case Coordinator dedicated to the management of child abuse, neglect, dependency cases and delinquency cases.

The Recommended Budget also includes funding for Court Officials Strategic Plan to identify goals, objectives, and best practices that should be implemented locally, and adds funding to provide needed services specifically for youthful offenders.

Economic Development

The Fiscal Year 2018 Recommended Budget includes an additional investment of $174,000 to support the new small business and entrepreneurial growth strategy. This supports the Board of County Commissioners’ desire to be more intentional about how and where to invest in economic development.

This funding will also support the addition of two new full-time positions to execute the Board’s vision for promoting the creation and retention of small businesses throughout the County.

Leveraging Financial Resources

With the 2019 property revaluation fast approaching, the County has been working diligently to be prepared, Diorio said.

The Fiscal Year 2018 recommended budget includes $731,000 for 14 additional positions including six Assessment Analysts, five Real Property Appraiser Technicians, two administrative support positions, and a Quality and Training Specialist. The budget also includes $948,000 for temporary staff and $130,000 to develop a communication plan.

Community Service Grants

Last fall, the Board of County Commissioners supported the addition of a sunset provision to the Community Services Grant program. The purpose of this provision is to retain funding to those agencies that should continue to provide services on the County’s behalf, and allow new providers to compete for funding.  The Fiscal Year Recommended Budget includes funding for 28 agencies

Employee Pay-For-Performance and Parental Leave

The Fiscal Year 2018 Recommended Budget includes $6.8 million for employee compensation, including merit increases, market rate adjustments and special separation allowance for Sheriff’s deputies. Health insurance costs continue to rise and the Recommended Budget includes an additional $6.3 million to cover anticipated increases in medical claims for employees.

Diorio also recommended a new paid parental leave program. This new benefit will provide 100% employer paid time away from work for the birth, adoption or placement of a child, as defined by FMLA for eligible employees. Paid parental leave will run for six consecutive weeks concurrent with FMLA.

Employee Pay-For-Performance

Exemplary customer service comes from high-performing employees. To recruit and retain high performing employees, the Recommended Budget includes pay-for-performance merit increases equivalent of 2.14 percent of payroll, or an average of 3 percent.

Equity and Implicit Bias Strategic Plan

After the civil unrest in September 2016, Diorio reported to the Board and the community that Mecklenburg County would look internally at its operations, policies and procedures to ensure equal access to services by every resident who needs them.

The Recommended Budget includes $200,000 to fund Phase One of Mecklenburg County’s new Equity and Implicit Bias Strategic Plan. Phase One will include an assessment of the County’s equity opportunities and challenges, training for key County staff, and the development of an Equity Action Plan.

Next Steps

The Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners will hold a public hearing to receive citizen input on the County manager’s FY2018 recommended budget on Monday, June 5 in the Meeting Chamber of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center. The public hearing will begin at 6 p.m.

Residents can register to speak here. Be sure to include your phone number and email address to receive notification that your registration was received.