McDowell County Commissioners pass the budget. Cut all money to McDowell Mission Ministries. | Local News

By Mike Conley

On Monday, the McDowell County Board of Commissioners passed a $54.4 million budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year that does not include an increase in the county’s property tax rate.

As part of their action, the commissioners decided to withdraw county funding for McDowell Mission Ministries and expand it to other organizations.

Under the new budget, McDowell’s property tax rate will remain at 57.75 cents per $100 of assessment, the same as last year. Counties like McDowell operate on a fiscal year that begins July 1 and ends June 30. Local governments must adopt a budget for the next fiscal year by June 30.

The county’s enacted budget for the next fiscal year is $54,425,329, or $4,696,593 more than the 2021-2022 budget of $49,728,636 or 9.44% more.

Before passing the budget, commissioners made some changes to county funding going to several nonprofits. These include the Office of the Clerk of the Court, Volunteer Fire Department, New HOPE of McDowell, NC Forest Service, Health Coalition, Vaya Health, McDowell Chamber of Commerce, Medical Examiner, Historic Carson House, McDowell Mission Ministries, the TDA, Rescue Squad, MACA, Watershed Commission, Freedom Life Ministries and others.

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On Monday, commissioners decided to pull county money that goes to McDowell Mission ministries.

Last week, the commissioners held a public hearing on the 2022-2023 budget. After the hearing closed, Vice Chairman David Walker said he wanted to change the amount the county provides to McDowell Mission ministries. The local homeless shelter is one of many organizations and groups that receive county funding. Previously, McDowell Mission Ministries received $17,500 a year from the county.

Walker said last week he wanted to change that amount to $5,000, which would match what the city of Marion provides to the mission. The remaining $12,500 would be distributed to the Lake James Environmental Association’s Mill Creek Project (which would receive $1,000), Freedom Life Ministries and the McDowell Pregnancy Care Center (which would receive $6,500).

But on Monday, the commissioners decided to change the funding even further. They agreed to continue donating $1,000 to LJEA, but decided to increase county funding to Freedom Life Ministries to $17,500 and increase county funding to McDowell Pregnancy Care Center to $9,000. This eliminates the county’s $5,000 that would have gone to McDowell Mission Ministries.

Before taking this step, county officials heard from Commissioner Chris Allison, who sits on the mission’s board of directors. He said McDowell Mission Ministries may be able to change their name by this week. He added that the bylaws were rewritten by people from Burke County and without any input from the people of McDowell.

The local homeless shelter’s new board will have seven members from McDowell and six from Burke.

Another change proposed for the 2022-2023 budget concerned the financing of the school system. County Executive Ashley Wooten said the $100,000 for the One to One program (which provides laptops to students) should be moved to the current spending portion of the budget. Indeed, the school system can obtain funds for laptops from other sources, he added.

After discussion, the commissioners voted unanimously to adopt the budget for the 2022-2023 financial year with these modifications in the amounts of the departmental allocations. As part of the budget passage, commissioners approved two positions for the sheriff’s office (a major and a public information officer/evidence custodian). They also approved tax rates for fire districts in McDowell.

At a previous meeting, commissioners voted to approve raises for several fire departments. On Monday, they approved lowering the rate for the Longtown District from 15 cents to 12 cents to be consistent with the rate at which Burke County residents are changed to benefit that fire department.

Additionally, Wooten told commissioners that the UNC School of Government notifies counties that they should contract with all groups and nonprofits that obtain county funding. This contract would establish the statutory powers and obligations that come with public funds.

In other business Monday, the McDowell County Board of Commissioners:

• Heard an update on the Department of Human Services from Director Lisa Sprouse

• Heard a presentation from Director of Recreation Chad Marsh

• Heard a report from intern Maeva Hassani, Lead for North Carolina (LFNC) scholar. She interned at McDowell County last year and worked on county social media policy.

• Approved the engagement of the consultancy firm WithersRavenel to carry out a preliminary engineering report (REP) on the possibilities of extending the water main for the area around West Marion Elementary School. The report would be used to help find funds for waterline extensions in the area.

• Approval of a sewer project that will service county-owned property on College Drive as well as the Universal Advanced Manufacturing Center building.

• Approved the provision of local matching for a water and sewer grant to provide utilities to a construction site in the industrial park.

• Authorized the inclusion of the public firing range property in a Duke Energy site preparation program to investigate whether part of the property can be used for development.

• Voted to approve Commissioner Brenda Vaughn for a four-year term on the McDowell Technical Community College Board of Trustees and Chad Marsh, Director of Recreation, for a two-year term on the MTCC Board of Trustees. Vaughn abstained from voting on those items.

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