It is tradition the chairman of the Johnston County Board of Commissioners give the State of the County Address during the first board meeting of each new year.
On Tuesday, Chairman Jeff Carver presented the 2018 State of the County Address. Carver highlighted many of the county’s accomplishments in 2017 and what lies ahead in 2018.
“The County received a clean financial audit report for Fiscal Year 2015-2016,” Carver said. “This is very important for many reasons. The County collects and spends taxpayer dollars and we take that charge very serious always remembering that it is not the County’s money. It is the taxpayers’ money.”
$30 Million Borrowed For School Renovations
“The County, working in partnership with the Johnston County Board of Education, agreed to borrow $30 million for repairs and renovations for some of the older schools in the County. We recognize that it is just as important to maintain and renovate existing schools as it is to build new facilities. “Swift Creek Middle School opened. This school was part of the 2013 bond referendums that were passed by a 72% approval rate by voters,” Carver said.
“The County continued to take advantage of low interest rates to refinance existing debt. Over the years, we are proud to say that this practice has resulted in millions of dollars in interest expense savings. The County continues to stay aggressive recruiting new industry and encouraging our existing industries to grow. The Board has approved no-risk incentive grants to attract these opportunities as in most cases, they are competitively sought both nationally and internationally. We also believe the quality of life and ready workforce here in Johnston County plays a significant role in those decisions.”
20 Year $333 Million Public Utility Expansion
“The Board adopted a 20 year $333 million Public Utilities Capital Improvements Plan for water, wastewater and reclaimed water programs. The Board approved an option agreement for the former Kmart building in Smithfield to be considered as possible future DSS office space. That process is now in the due diligence stage to evaluate if the project will be affordable.”
“In looking ahead to 2018, this Board will continue to focus on job growth. We appreciate and thank every employer in our County for their commitment and investment. We all know there is nothing more important to someone than a paycheck and those payroll dollars float through our local economy several times. We will continue to be aggressive with industry recruitment and expansion.”
November 2018 School Bond Referendum
“The Board looks forward to an upcoming joint meeting with the Board of Education on February 1st to receive updates on their capital needs. This information will be considered as we determine what the County can afford in a November 2018 bond referendum. We will also be working closely with Johnston Community College during this process as they continue to have many needs.”
Carver also highlighted plans started in 2017 for the merger of the Johnston County Mental Health Center with Alliance Behavorial Health that will be completed in 2018. He also said site selection for a new county jail will be made soon. He pointed out the 2017-18 budget was the 14th consecutive year commissioners have not increased the property tax rate.
In closing, Carver said the future is bright for Johnston County. While there are challenges, Carver concluded by saying, “The year 2018 and beyond will be great years for Johnston County.”