State of the County Address for 2017
For Immediate Release
Contact: Rick Hester, County Manager
Johnston County, North Carolina
CARVER: EDUCATION, JOBS AND FISCAL HEALTH ARE TOP PRIORITIES FOR 2017
State of Johnston County Address Highlights 2016 Successes and Challenges
Smithfield, N.C. – January 3, 2017. Groundbreakings on expansions at two major employers, along with a key credit upgrade, helped showcase Johnston County’s continued economic growth and fiscal strength last year, Jeff Carver said at today’s meeting of the Johnston County Board of Commissioners. Carver, who was elected chairman of the Commissioners last month, reviewed the county’s accomplishments and set the stage for the coming year in his State of the County Address for 2017.
“If you have driven by Novo Nordisk and Grifols recently, I am sure you have noticed the massive construction underway,” Carver said. The two global companies each broke ground on significant expansions to their bio-manufacturing facilities in Clayton. “We appreciate their continued commitment to grow in Johnston County and will do everything we can to support their efforts along with every business in the county.”
Carver cited Moody’s upgrade last April of the county’s credit rating – from Aa2 to Aa1, its second best – as a major milestone. The announcement came one week after Standard & Poors reaffirmed its AA+ rating for the county. “Since 1999, Johnston County has had seven bond rating upgrades, and we are now one step away from our goal of a “AAA” rating, which I have no doubt we will meet,” Carver said. “These rating upgrades increase the county’s standing in the worldwide financial arena and lower borrowing costs for all Johnston County taxpayers.”
Johnston County sustained its commitment to public education in 2016. “We worked closely with the Board of Education to increase funding for teacher supplements,” said Carver, who has served as a commissioner since 2003. “We are proud of our teachers and thankful for their commitment to education.”
The year was not without challenges, including Hurricane Matthew, which blew a deadly path through Johnston County in October. Flooding claimed four lives here, the highest countywide death toll in the state. “So many of our citizens are still dealing with the aftermath of this historic storm, and we continue to pray for the families and businesses that lost everything,” Carver said.
Looking ahead, Carver anticipates Johnston County will build on its support for education and workforce development. Commissioners will soon meet with the Board of Education to discuss the estimated $30 million in renovation and repairs needed at county schools. “I would ask that our Board commit to discussing and planning for a bond referendum in 2018 for both Johnston County Schools and Johnston Community College,” said Carver, who is senior vice president at First Citizens Bank in Smithfield. “Johnston County has a great track record of building and renovating educational facilities to meet growth and we must continue such projects.”
Carver also pledged to sustain the county’s commitment to sound fiscal management and economic growth. Building permits are up, he noted. Meanwhile, the county’s 4.3 percent unemployment rate fell from 4.9 percent a year ago and remains comfortably below current state and national figures (4.8 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively). “We have much to be thankful for,” Carver said.
For additional information about Johnston County, visit http://www.johnstonnc.com
The entire State of the County Address follows:
State of the County Address
Johnston County, North Carolina
Each January, the Chairperson of this Board presents the annual State of the County Address. It is a time to briefly reflect on the past year as well as a time to look ahead. I would like to first thank my fellow Commissioners for appointing me as Chairman and I am confident Vice Chairman Godwin feels the same. We are honored to serve in these roles. Congratulations again to our newest Commissioners Keith Branch and Larry Wood on their recent election to the Board. We look forward to working with you as we make decisions that impact the citizens of our County.
I would ask the Board to consider focusing on three main objectives in 2017; facilitating continued job growth, supporting our education partners, and staying fiscally responsible to the taxpayers. Let me first say that I am optimistic about the future of Johnston County. I am sure the recent split votes on certain decisions by this Board have been noticed, but I want everyone to know that we remain united in doing our part to make Johnston County even better than it already is. We have many great opportunities ahead of us in 2017 and beyond for Johnston County. Before I spend a few minutes talking about the future, I would like to briefly look back at 2016.
Even though 2016 was difficult at times, many good things happened. We worked closely with the Board of Education to increase funding for teacher supplements as we are proud of our teachers and thankful for their commitment to education. The County’s bond rating was upgraded by Moody’s last spring with the final sale of the 2013 bond referendum. Since 1999 Johnston County has had seven bond rating upgrades, and we are now one step away from our goal of a “AAA” rating which I have no doubt we will meet. These rating upgrades increase the County’s standing in the worldwide financial arena and lower borrowing costs for all Johnston County taxpayers.
Speaking of finances, I am very proud of our excellent audit report. Thanks to our Finance team as well as every agency for your efforts. We all know and realize that the taxes paid every year by hard-working Johnstonians are not the County’s money, but rather it is the taxpayers’ money.
If you have driven by Novo Nordisk and Grifols recently, I am sure you have noticed the massive construction underway. Novo Nordisk and Grifols are two of the largest private employers and taxpayers in Johnston County. We appreciate their continued commitment to grow in Johnston County and will do everything we can to support their efforts along with every business in the County.
As mentioned, there were some difficult days in 2016. The CSX intermodal terminal project was a learning experience for us and I think we all learned valuable lessons. In the end, CSX will build their intermodal terminal down the road in the Rocky Mount area and we are thankful that the project remained in North Carolina. This project will greatly benefit our State and it is our belief that Johnston County will still see positive impacts from this project.
Hurricanes Fran and Floyd in the late 1990’s greatly impacted Johnston County, but I don’t believe anyone could have been prepared for Hurricane Matthew and the devastation it brought to our State and County in October of 2016. So many of our citizens are still dealing with the aftermath of this historic storm and we continue to pray for the families and businesses that lost everything. On the heels of Hurricane Matthew came a day of tragic accidents on Interstate 95 which created a hazardous materials incident that tested our public safety resources in Johnston County. I am very proud of our staff along with all the other public safety agencies in the County that responded to both events. Their dedication and work through all the long hours with these two events as well as all emergencies in our County are to be commended.
Looking to 2017, the Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education have discussed needed renovation and repair projects primarily for our older schools that are estimated to cost as much as $30 million. We will be meeting soon with Johnston County Schools to determine the next steps in that process. I would ask that our Board commit to discussing and planning for a bond referendum in 2018 for both Johnston County Schools and Johnston Community College. Johnston County has a great track record of building and renovating educational facilities to meet growth and we must continue such projects. I am especially proud of how we have completed so many projects in the past 18 years without raising taxes or compromising our financial policies and bond ratings.
As we all know, a proposed public safety center has been in discussion by both the past Board and current Board, specifically a location for a proposed center. While it appears that there are different opinions as to where a public safety center should be located, I want to make it very clear that the Board of Commissioners will work together as a team to do what is best for the County and the citizens. Please understand that decisions like this are difficult and may be unpopular, but I would ask for everyone’s patience as we work through the due diligence of such a project.
In closing, we have much to be thankful for. Our building permit numbers are up and our unemployment rate is down. I look forward to our annual work session where we will chart the course the future. I believe that 2017 will be a great year for Johnston County and I hope we all can continue to work together to promote job growth, support our education partners and remain fiscally sound.
Jeffrey P. Carver
Johnston County Board of Commissioners