State of the County Address for 2018
State of the County Address
Johnston County, North Carolina
Good morning and thank you all for being here today. It is an honor for me to take a few minutes to present the annual State of the County address. I would like to first thank my fellow Board Members for all you do every day to help make our County great. I want to also thank you for asking Commissioner Godwin and me to serve as your Chair and Vice Chair for another year. These are positions that we don’t take lightly.
2017 was a great year. A few of the many highlights from this past year include:
- The County received a clean financial audit report for Fiscal Year 2015-2016. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Board adopted the current Fiscal Year 2017-2018 budget with no tax rate increase for the 14th consecutive year. During the most recent budget process, the Board dedicated funds from the County’s allocation for increased teacher supplements.
- The Board held a public hearing for citizens to provide feedback about the future location of a much needed detention center. Most of the discussion during that hearing centered around the question of locating the detention center downtown or just outside of Smithfield. There were 13 speakers that night and the opinions were mixed. The Board appreciates the feedback we received and we are getting close to a decision on a location.
- The Board understands the seriousness of opioid use and supported the Johnston County Health Department’s Leadership Forum on Opioid Abuse.
- 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.
- The Board authorized the County Manager to send a non-binding letter of intent to Alliance Behavioral Health, subject to negotiations of a mutually acceptable agreement. Behavioral Health is very important and everyone can be assured that whatever final decision is made, Johnston County citizens will always come first.
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.
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.
The Board will be having our annual spring work session to help chart the course for the next several years. The Fiscal Year 2018-2019 budget process begins soon and we look forward to making this upcoming budget the 15th consecutive year without raising the tax rate. I will continue to challenge the County Manager to bring the Board a proposed budget that takes care of business in the most efficient and effective way.
In closing, our future is bright. We are so fortunate to live in a county that is so dynamic. Yes, we have challenges, but I can assure everyone there are many counties in our State that would love to be facing our challenges. The year 2018 and beyond will be great years for Johnston County.
Jeffrey P. Carver, Chairman
Johnston County Board of Commissioners