By: Felipe Rivas
2 min read November 2020 — Businesses, industry, education and well-being are the four pillars that Beth Jones, county manager of Iredell County, is prioritizing to ensure the prosperity and future of the county. She spoke with Invest: about these and other factors in adapting to a new landscape.
How did the county adapt the FY21 budget given the pandemic landscape?
We looked at it from the standpoint of creating a worst-case scenario budget. It’s much easier to add as opposed to take away. We had our budget planning almost done when the pandemic hit. We started seeing things occurring, such as our sales tax numbers dropping amid the stay-at-home order that the government put in place. We started all over again and inserted that worst-case-scenario logic into our planning. When we presented the budget to the board, we went over the possibility of things not picking up, the sales tax revenues not rebounding, our revenues stagnating and the length of time our recreational center might remain closed. Once the different variables of this pessimistic scenario were played out, we highlighted how this budget could weather the storm, including a midyear budget review to progressively re-insert things.
This month, we will analyze our revenues and identify trends going forward, looking at our sales tax evolution retroactively in the first couple of months of the new fiscal year and then project out. We can then regroup and put some things back in. The sales tax has surprised us all. We were planning on a huge dip but it only extended over a month. The subsequent months were not nearly as bad as we had projected. We even hit a record number of permits at our Development Services Office for the month of August, with 408 permits in that month alone, a record high for us. It speaks volumes about our community, the area and the region we are in, where even in difficult times, we are still prospering and growing. It’s a promising aspect and number to look at.
How would you characterize the objectives set by the School Capacity Bond?
Iredell County voters said yes to the $126-million School Capacity Bond in March 2020. Prior to being able to sell the bonds, we must have bids in place. Mooresville Graded School District is going through the design process and it is close to completion. Iredell-Statesville is beginning the design process as well. With all that has happened, including COVID-19 and students going remote, our educational systems had to hit the pause button and completely redesign educational delivery from in-person instruction to virtual and have done a wonderful job in a short amount of time. They are still moving forward with their plans for their much needed school facilities. Mitchell Community College had the Public Safety Training Center included in that bond and are moving forward with their design as well.
How is the county assessing the opportunities on the industrial and logistics fronts?
We have just approved a company to do a countywide transportation study for us. All of our municipalities draft and implement their own transportation plans, including road development and maintenance. At the county level, it is critical for us to have a plan that can get our residents and our e-commerce from one location to another seamlessly. There needs to be a master plan that links each and every municipal plan to materialize a sturdy and efficient transportation network throughout the county that also links with other counties, especially considering Iredell County is surrounded by nine other counties. Once we begin the master plan process, we will poll all of our major businesses and industries that rely heavily on logistics to get their input and insights to incorporate into the plan.
What are Iredell County’s top priorities toward 2021?
Our No. 1 goal is to ensure everybody continues to be successful and can thrive in a safe way. We have learned a lot from this experience and its wave of profound and significant change. It does not mean that our commerce has to stop, or that we cannot continue to thrive and grow. We just have to do it in a different way, and safely. The good news is that we are doing it in an age where we are rich in technology and have several resources at our fingertips. We just have to be willing to take advantage of them. We are going to continue to move forward, to be successful, grow and support our businesses and industries and our community and provide a great quality of life.
We focus a lot on businesses and industry and talk at length about education but there is another piece of that puzzle, which is peoples’ physical and mental health, their overall well-being. Parks and recreation is a big part of that. We want to create a place where everybody can live, work, play, raise a family and enjoy a good quality of life.
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