Proposed $250 Million County Budget Includes Higher Fees, 21 New Positions

Johnston County Manager Rick Hester released his proposed 2020-2021 fiscal year budget this afternoon.  The $250.6 million budget proposal is about $1.3 million less than the current 2019-2020 fiscal year amended budget.

The spending plan keeps the 76 cents property tax rate unchanged but does include a number of water and sewer fee increases.  The recommendation includes raising county water rates from $3.70 to $3.90 per 1,000 gallons; increasing the base rate for sewer service from $26.50 to $30.00 per month; and increasing sewer treatment costs from $5.95 to $6.55 per 1,000 gallons.

Residential water tap fees for new customers would increase from $1,800 to $2,000 while sewer taps would go from $3,800 to $4,090.

Bulk wastewater treatment fees charged to the Towns of Smithfield, Selma, Pine Level, Four Oaks, Clayton, along with private providers Aqua and Carolina Water Service would decrease from $3.44 to $3.00 per 1,000 gallons.

Mr. Hester’s budget includes $1.9 million to make the first payment on a new detention center. Preliminary indications are that the low bid for construction of the new jail is $11 million less than what was projected, officials also announced today.

Johnston County Public Schools would receive $70,000,000 for current expense and $800,000 for capital outlay. Johnston County Schools approved their budget request Tuesday asking for $76,423,852 for current expense and $1,204,504 for capital outlay.  During the current fiscal year, JCPS received $68,545,918 and $1,096,924 respectively.

Johnston Community College would receive $4.5 million for current expenses and $550,000 for capital outlay in the proposal.

“Given the current uncertainty of the economy due to COVID-19, I respectfully request to revisit employee compensation later in the budget year,” Mr. Hester said in his budget summary message to county commissioners.  The county has about 1,150 full time employees.

Department heads had requested 38 new positions this year. Hester is recommending commissioners approve 21 new positions.  They include 8 new EMS workers for a Cleveland-area EMS unit; four additional 911 dispatchers; two positions in Public Health; one child protective services supervisor at the Department of Social Services; one administrative assistant for the Planning Department; one position in GIS; 3 Public Utilities employees (2 maintenance and 1 construction inspector), and one gate site attendance for Johnston County Solid Waste.

“Given the current state of the economy due to COVID-19, this budget has certainly been difficult,” Mr. Hester told Johnston County Report. “Even after the final budget is adopted by the Board, I anticipate it will have to be closely monitored – and possibly adjusted – each month.”

Commissioners will hold a Public Hearing on the budget proposal on June 1st at 10:00am. A Budget Workshop will be held June 8th at 6:00pm and adoption of the budget is anticipated on June 15th at 6:00pm.