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Budget plan ups spending by 12 percent

Lincoln County’s preliminary budget for 2004-05 includes no change in the property tax rate, a 7.23 percent increase in school funding and a 12 percent increase in overall spending.
The $91.7 million proposed budget presented by County Manager Stan Kiser Monday night will still be dissected by county commissioners before it’s approved. Commissioners have already set two budget workshops where county department heads will explain their needs.
There was some discussion Monday night following Kiser’s presentation, mostly by Commissioner Carrol Mitchem who requested information on the past three budget years. He also wanted to know what the tax rate would be should the county adopt a revenue-neutral budget.
Kiser’s budget keeps the tax rate at 62 cents per $100 valuation, meaning a resident who owns a $100,000 home would pay $620 in taxes. But since the average property value went up with this year’s revaluation, most property owners will pay more in taxes even without the increase. That extra revenue is necessary to pay for growth and schools, Kiser said.
Kiser is proposing that Lincoln County Schools be allotted $12.4 million for current expenses, an $839,000 — or 7.23 percent — increase over last year’s budget. The county will also be making about $7.2 million in school bond payments in the coming year.
The county will spend about $1.11 million on capital improvements if Kiser’s budget is approved. That pays for additional voting equipment ($25,000); a data processing equipment upgrade ($126,820); a 5 percent grant match for the Lincolnton-Lincoln County Regional Airport ($51,444); funding for the Lincoln Campus of Gaston College expansion ($375,000); a new ambulance ($25,000); economic development projects ($278,300); recreation park development ($225,000); and Historical Properties land ($6,000).
Another chunk of the budget goes toward the county’s required contribution to Medicaid. This year, Lincoln County will have to pay $3.6 million, a $376,636 increase from last year. Counties in North Carolina have to pay 5.7 percent of the entire cost of Medicaid.
For the second year, a cost of living increase for county employees is not included in the proposed budget. Commissioners last year approved a COLA for employees halfway through the fiscal year.
In the East Lincoln Sewer District, the sewer tax will be lowered to 13 cents per $100 valuation.
A copy of the proposed budget is available for public viewing at the at the county manager’s office in the James W. Warren Citizens Center.by Alice Smith

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