PREVIEW OF COUNTY COMMISSION AGENDA
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2010, 9:30 A.M.
ROBERT E. HIBBITTS MEETING ROOM
1924 COURTHOUSE, NEWTON, NC
The Catawba County Board of Commissioners will receive an update on the closing of the Catawba County Animal Shelter on August 25, 2010, due to an outbreak of a virus at the shelter; and will be formally presented with the proposed 2011 Schedule of Values, a set of standards and rules created following the study of the county’s current real estate market which, after approval by the Board, will be used to set property values in Catawba County, when the Board meets at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, September 7, 2010, in the Robert E. Hibbitts Meeting Room of the 1924 Courthouse at 30 North College Avenue in Newton. Please note the change in the Board’s normal meeting schedule, as the first Monday in September is Labor Day.
The Board will also consider a proposed amendment to the County’s Personnel Code to reflect recent changes in North Carolina law that expand the definition of public and confidential information regarding County personnel records; proposed amendments to Chapter 14 and Chapter 18 of the County Code to update and clarify language in those chapters, which relate to Emergency Management and Services, and to Fire Prevention and Protection; a presentation by officials from the North Carolina Department of Transportation on the 2010-2011 Secondary Road Program for Catawba County as approved by the North Carolina Board of Transportation; and a request to broaden the use of funds set aside in a Children with Special Needs Adoption Fund. The Board will also issue a proclamation declaring September as National Preparedness Month in Catawba County.
A. The Board will issue a proclamation declaring September 2010 as “National Preparedness Month”. The proclamation encourages citizens to prepare their homes, businesses and communities for any type of emergency, from natural disasters to potential terrorist attacks, and also encourages participation in the preparedness activities suggested by the County and other government agencies, such as making a family emergency plan; putting together an emergency supply kit; being prepared to help a neighbor; and working as a team to help keep everyone safe.
B. The Board will receive a report on the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) 2010-2011 Secondary Road Program for Catawba County, as approved by the North Carolina Board of Transportation. The presentation will outline the paving priorities approved by NCDOT for unpaved roads in the county, which will utilize an anticipated $1,580,200 allocation in State highway funds.
A. The Board will consider a proposal to expand the use of $9,000 in annual Children with Special Needs Adoption funds to offset costs to relatives to gain custody or guardianship of their relative children. In 1990, the Board approved the use of $9,000 annually to assist with moving more African American children in foster care to adoptive homes. Currently, 18% of children in foster care are African-American and 64% are Caucasian. In the Catawba County foster care system, 21% of foster homes are African-American, while 74% are Caucasian. In the last fiscal year, 22 African-American children entered foster care and 53 left foster care. Of those 53, about half returned home; 17 were placed with relatives, and the others were adopted or placed with non-relatives. Social Services offers enhanced board rates to foster families taking in high needs children, sibling groups, and older children, and to assist children with ongoing needs in foster care and those moving to adoptive homes, with funds from the State and funds donated to Social Services.
Social Services has made strong efforts in recent years to locate more relatives of children early in a family’s involvement with child welfare services. There has been increased success in achieving this, often allowing children to maintain or gain connections to relatives while the family is involved with child welfare services, and sustaining those contacts after the family is no longer involved with Social Services. In fiscal year 2009-2010, 99 children in foster care (27%) were living with relatives. Many additional children are placed with relatives as a safety resource without having to come into foster care, but it is not a permanent arrangement. Relatives do not receive a board rate or any other financial offset to take children into their homes. North Carolina is not currently able to provide guardianship funding due to budget shortfalls. Many relatives would gladly accept custody or guardianship of their relative children rather than have them enter foster care. In order to do this, they must often pay substantial fees to an attorney to draft guardianship papers. Most cannot afford this, especially in today’s economy. If funds were available to help offset the costs of attorney fees, many children would avoid entry into the foster care and legal systems, and the stigma that often comes with being a “foster child”. Cost savings to the County and State in reduced foster care expenses may more than offset the cost of attorney fees to gain legal custody for relatives. Most importantly, it gives the child quick permanency, a sense of belonging, and a tight connection to his or her family roots. Research continues to show that these factors may also reduce the costs to communities in later juvenile charges and adult crimes. The expanded use of these funds has been recommended to the full Board of Commissioners by the Board’s Finance and Personnel Subcommittee.
B. The Board will consider amending Sections 28-304 and 28-305 of the County Personnel Code to recognize revisions to North Carolina General Statute 153A-98(b), which expands the definition of public and confidential information regarding County personnel records. The Government Ethics and Campaign Reform Act of 2010, signed into law by Governor Beverly Perdue on August 2, 2010, expanded this definition. The changes required by the Act are designed to strengthen transparency of government by increasing and clarifying accessibility to public records and will be a significant change for counties. The Act makes information about employees’ promotions, demotions, transfers, suspensions, separations or other changes in position (rather than only the most recent change), and each change in salary, a matter of public record. The Act also makes information regarding the general reasons for an employee’s promotion a public record. Finally, the Act makes any written notice of the final decision of the County to dismiss an employee, along with the specific acts or omissions that are the basis of the dismissal, to be a matter of public record. The Act’s effective date is October 1, 2010. The Board’s Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommends these amendments to the Personnel Code.
C. The Board will consider amending the Catawba County Code, Chapter 14, Emergency Management and Services and Chapter 18, Fire Prevention and Protection. Staff has worked with the County’s Legal Department to thoroughly review and update these two chapters of the Catawba County Code. The majority of the changes are related to format, numbering, naming of reference material, and to provide clarity to the ordinances. For example, references to the North Carolina General Statutes were previously signified by the abbreviation G.S. and would be listed as NCGS if the Board approves the amendments. References to specific general statutes and administrative codes that have been renumbered, repealed, or revised would be amended and replaced with State law or North Carolina Administrative Code, depending on the source. References to the North Carolina Department of Insurance and Insurance Service office have been changed to read NC Department of Insurance. The ordinance currently makes reference to the Emergency Management Office, Office of Emergency Management, and emergency management agency. These would be changed to read “Emergency Management Division” for consistency throughout the document. The proposed amendments to Chapter 18 were distributed to each fire department in the county for review and comment. There were no comments or changes suggested. The Board’s Policy and Public Works Subcommittee recommends approval of the proposed amendments.
The Board will consider adopting a proposed Schedule of Values, Standards, and Rules for Catawba County’s 2011 Revaluation, which will be formally presented to the Board as prescribed under North Carolina General Statute 105-317. Under a resolution adopted by the Board on September 4, 2007, Catawba County’s next countywide revaluation will become effective on January 1, 2011. Catawba County has approximately 87,000 separate parcels of land which are required by State law to be appraised at 100% of market value as of the effective revaluation date. To that end, Catawba County staff has worked for many months analyzing data derived from real estate sales, building cost data, and income and expense statements from income producing properties in the county. This has resulted in the creation of the proposed Schedule of Values, Standards, and Rules, which will be utilized, after it is approved by the Board of Commissioners, to generate market value appraisals for all real property in Catawba County. Individuals who buy and sell real estate in the open market establish the market value. Market value is not set by the Catawba County Tax Department.
The proposed Schedule of Values also includes a special schedule for appraising eligible agricultural, horticultural, and forest land at its “present use” value. This is a schedule used statewide and formulated by the North Carolina Department of Revenue. Properties whose owners qualify for “present use” assessment will receive two values: a market value mandated by law and a “present use” value.
Adoption of the proposed Schedule of Values is an important step in the revaluation process. Because of its importance, the Machinery Act of North Carolina requires the Board of Commissioners to only adopt it after holding a public hearing and then publicizing that it has done so. Staff has recommended the public hearing be scheduled for Monday, September 20, 2010, at 7:00 p.m., in the Robert E. Hibbitts Meeting Room of the 1924 Courthouse at 30 North College Avenue in Newton. After adoption of the Schedule, property owners will have 30 days to challenge the Schedule of Values by appeal to the North Carolina State Property Tax Commission.
In accordance with North Carolina General Statute 105-317(c), the proposed Schedule of Values must be formally presented to the Board not less than 21 days before the meeting at which it will be considered. After the formal presentation at this meeting, the Board must notify the public through newspapers of general circulation that it has received the proposed Schedule of Values and that the Schedule is open for inspection at the Tax Assessor’s office on the first floor of the Catawba County Government Center at 100-A Southwest Boulevard in Newton. The notice must also inform the public that a public hearing will be held, giving the specific date, time, and place. This public hearing must be held at least seven days before the Board considers adoption of the proposed Schedule of Values. Staff recommends the public hearing be scheduled for September 20, 2010, at 7:00 p.m., in the Robert E. Hibbitts Meeting Room of the 1924 Courthouse.
Staff recommends the Board schedule its vote for formal adoption of the Schedule of Value for its meeting beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, October 4, 2010, in the Robert E. Hibbitts Meeting Room of the 1924 Courthouse. Afterwards, a newspaper notice must be published stating that the Schedule of Values has been adopted and that property owners have 30 days from the date of the first publication to challenge the Schedule of Values by appeal to the North Carolina State Property Tax Commission on grounds that the Schedule of Values does not adhere to the appropriate statutory valuation standard (that it will produce values that are too high, too low, or inconsistent). The North Carolina State Property Tax Commission has the power to order the Board of Commissioners to revise the Schedule of Values if they do not adhere to the statutory valuation standard. The North Carolina State Property Tax Commission’s decision may be appealed to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Assuming an October 4, 2010 adoption, property owners would have until Wednesday, November 3, 2010, to challenge the Schedule of Values.
2. EMERGENCY SERVICES
The Board will receive an update on the closing of the Catawba County Animal Shelter on August 25, 2010, due to an outbreak of a virus at the shelter.
CONTACT: DAVE HARDIN, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER 828-465-8464