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Residents Hear about County Budget Woes at Annual Meeting

(March 13, 2011) At the 2011 meeting of the Steele Creek Residents Association last week, Mecklenburg County Manager Harry Jones (speaking below) presented a grim picture of the county's financial situation. Because of the economic situation, sales tax revenues are down, and the state is pushing more costs down to the counties. The county has fewer employees than it had a few years ago and is taking other cost saving measures such as restructuring departments. The county must continue to find ways to cut costs and save money.

"It's a false expectation that we'll return to the status quo of a few years ago," Mr. Jones said.

2011 Annual Meeting

Over the last decade, the county has spent millions of dollars to construct a new library, four new schools, and numerous parks and park improvements in Steele Creek. Funding for these projects has come from the sale of bonds, but the county will be issuing no new bonds for the next two years, and several school construction and park projects already approved by voters will have to wait. (See $34M for Capital Projects in Steele Creek is on Hold.)

The County Commissioners determine how much funding the county will provide to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library but does not decide library closings and other cost savings measures. Those decisions are made by the Library Board of Trustees. The Future of the Library Task Force has been studying how to maintain library services while adapting to budget realities and will present its recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners and the Library Board of Trustees at a special meeting on Monday, March 21.

The Steele Creek Library is not among the highest priority facilities to remain open but may be spared because it is the furthest community library from a regional library and is the busiest community library behind the Matthews Branch. (See Summary of Library Locations.)

Mr. Jones will present his recommended budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 to the County Commission on May 17, and they are expected to approve the final budget on June 15. Mr. Jones must show a revenue neutral budget, but his recommended budget might include a rate increase.

Mr. Jones was asked if consolidation of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County governments would save money. He said that most government functions already are either divided between the two governments or are consolidated. Studies have shown that the savings would be only about $4 to $5 million a year. Issues regarding what type of governing board would replace the current City Council and County Commission and the role of the six towns would have to be resolved.

At-Large County Commissioner and Steele Creek resident Jim Pendergraph said that he wanted to hold down taxes, but the county still has to provide services. District 2 Representative Vilma Leake said that she would not support a tax increase.

Asst. District Attorney Bryan Crocker, Chief of our Habitual Felon Prosecution Unit, also spoke. He said that the District Attorney staff was willing to come to any community meeting to discuss their efforts to ensure the citizens of Mecklenburg County are safe.

Melony McCullough of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department discussed efforts to develop an updated Steele Creek Area Plan. This will be a policy document to guide future land use decisions in Steele Creek. (See Steele Creek Area Plan Taking Shape.) Ms. McCullough brought maps that attendees examined before and after (below) listening to the speakers.

2011 Annual Meeting

2011 Annual MeetingRepresentatives of over a dozen community organizations and local government agencies and facilities set up tables with displays and information. these provided a great opportunity for attendees to interact with each other and learn more about their community.

To comment on this story please visit the Steele Creek Forum.

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