Cleveland County budget focuses on center for justice, education and safety

Cleveland County Commissioners recently approved a budget of $126,587,508 for the 2022-2023 budget, maintaining the same tax rate and focusing on several upcoming projects.

The county tax rate will remain at 54.75 cents per $100 of property assessment.

The commissioners will focus on capital projects, including the proposed Justice Center campus, schools, employees and community health and safety, according to a presentation by Cleveland County Executive Brian Epley.

During his May 17 presentation at the commissioners’ meeting, Epley pointed to cost increases across the country as the reason for spending more than last year’s budget of $120.5 million. .

He said it’s “the rising cost of doing business” and specifically talked about the rising cost of medical care and fuel.

“We are certainly operating in very difficult times,” he said.

Here are some highlights of the approved budget.

New jobs, salary increases

Commissioners approved the creation of 10 new positions. These include:

  • 4 sheriff’s deputies
  • 2 environmental health officers
  • 1 computer
  • 1 911 call center
  • 1 emergency management
  • 1 animal services officer

The new positions will have a price tag of $702,000.

The budget also includes an increase of $80,000 per volunteer fire department to provide an hourly wage increase for paid staff to $15 per hour and full-time coverage on weekends.

The budget calls for a 4% increase in the cost of living for county employees. During the presentation, Epley said the county has 46 paid employees significantly below the poverty level and that will change.

Capital projects

The budget provides $161.85 million to renovate, redevelop or construct the following buildings:

  • Board of Elections
  • 911 communication center
  • Health/DSS colocation
  • Randolph Road Shell Building
  • Doran Factory Shell Building
  • Justice Center Campus

Contribute to education

Cleveland County schools will receive an allocation of just over $29.6 million. This is a per pupil increase to $2,429 per pupil. Approximately $350 of funding per student will be allocated to an escrow account.

The escrow disbursement will include $1.5 million in July to fund a 2% supplement for classroom teachers as well as $1.5 million for capital.

Since 2018, county funding for Cleveland Community College has increased. In fiscal year 2021-22 the increase was 17% and this year the increase is 8.9% for a total funding allocation of $3,058,872.

Bringing broadband to many

Commissioners have allocated $1 million in matching grant funds (US stimulus dollars) for broadband expansion in Cleveland County with the goal of serving 95% of county residents within four years .

Deputy County Executive Kerri Epley said in a presentation earlier this year that the county received a state grant and would partner with Charter Communications, which won a federal grant for the project.

Main priorities

Epley listed the following as the commissioners’ top priorities with the passage of the budget:

  • Prioritize the creation of the Justice Center Campus
  • Host a national shooting competition at the Foothills Public Shooting Complex
  • Work with Cleveland County Schools to develop a long-term capital plan
  • Develop a five-year public safety strategic plan
  • Identify health disparities and partner with community agencies to improve county health rankings
  • Focus on being an employer of choice by offering a competitive salary, modern policies and opportunities for advancement

Before the commissioners passed the budget, Epley said the document before them was the result of 28 department meetings and seven months of planning. He said the budget was conservative and “recession ready”.

Prior to the vote, Commissioner Deb Hardin expressed concern about the $400,000 allocated to the American Legion World Series held annually in Shelby. She suggested the money could be used for public safety and school safety.

After some discussion about the financial benefits of the 10-day event, Hardin was the only one to vote against passing the budget.

The budget comes into effect on July 1. It can be viewed online at the county’s website, clevelandcounty.com.

Diane Turbyfill can be reached at 704-669-3334 and [email protected]