The County's annual budget process seeks to align Board and community priorities with the funding needed to achieve them. The budget process typically occurs during the seven-month period from December to June. The North Carolina Local Government Budget and Fiscal Control Act (G.S. 159, Article 3) requires local governments to adopt an annual budget by June 30, based on the state mandated fiscal year that runs from July 1 to June 30.
Staff start the budget season with a retreat for the Board of Commissioners to discuss community needs for the following year. The retreat also provides an opportunity for department leadership and outside entities to present current needs and concerns. All agencies of the County submit funding requests to the County Manager by the end of February each year. The County Manager uses these requests as the starting point for developing a recommended budget.
Budget staff manage the process using the following levels:
- Level 1 - Base: This level starts with the prior year’s adopted budget amounts but removes any one-time costs or projects. Departments do not do anything in this level.
- Level 2 - Department Continuation: Departments update their budget detail in this level. Prior year detail serves as the starting point, but departments still need to assess and update all prior year detail and amounts while adding new detail if necessary. Continuation budgets provide the same level of service in the coming year that the department is providing in the current year. Such budgets typically include items that repeat year after year. It is ok to have increases in this column due to an increase in the cost of doing business year over year (i.e. inflation costs in operations, supplies, fuel, utilities, contractual increases, etc.). Departments should enter revenues the same as in the past. Departments key in this level.
- Level 3 - Manager Continuation Budget Recommendation: This level starts with the Departmental continuation budgets keyed in level 1. Management will review all continuation requests prior to opening up any Departmental expansion budget keying. Management will review requests and make any necessary updates and/or modifications. The Budget team will communicate any changes made. Departments do not do anything in this level.
- Level 4 - Department Expansion or Reduction Budget: This level will only be for new budget requests that the Department is seeking if the capacity for expansion exists. The following classify as an expansion request: new personnel, new software, new technology for new personnel, new projects, new upgrades, new programs, new services, new vehicles for new personnel or adding to the fleet outside of the normal replacement cycle. Expansion requests should be well justified. The following revenues are classified as expansion: those tied to a new grant, new reimbursement due to a new position or a new fee structure. Departments key expansion or reductions in this level.
- Level 5 - Manager Expansion or Reduction Budget Recommendation: Budget will move to this level prior to departmental budget conferences in March. The goal is to have budget conferences primarily focus on expansion requests that the Department is seeking since Management will review continuation requests ahead of time. Any adjustments that take place at the budget conferences will be reflected in this level. Departments do not do anything in this level.
- Level 6 - Board: This level will combine Manager recommended continuation and expansion budget levels (Levels 3 and 5). Budget will move to this level after the budget conferences and all adjustments are made in the Manager’s level. Budget will balance the budget in this level. Any adjustments that take place at the budget workshops in June will be reflected in this level and ultimately the budget will be adopted in this level. Departments do not do anything in this level.
Any changes made after the Board approves the budget go through the Budget Amendment process (see section on Amendments to the Budget Ordinance).