W. Brian Hiatt
W. Brian Hiatt has served as Concord's City Manager since 1998. He came to Concord from Hickory where he served as Assistant City Manager for over 10 years. Brian holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in History and Government Service from Appalachian State University where he was a summa cum laude graduate, and a Master of Public Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Active in the community, Brian serves as President of the Academic Learning Center and is on the Board of Directors for the Cabarrus Economic Development Corporation and the Water and Sewer Authority of Cabarrus County. He currently serves as Vice-Chairman of the Cabarrus County United Way Campaign. He is a Past-President of both the Concord Rotary Club, where he was named Rotarian of the Year in 2012, and the Lake Hickory Rotary Club. He is also a Past-President of the Board of Directors for United Way of Cabarrus County. In 2002, Brian served as the Chairman of the United Way Campaign in Cabarrus County. He is also a former board member of Hospice of Cabarrus County. He is currently the President of the North Carolina City and County Management Association. Brian was a member of the Board of Directors of the NC League of Municipalities from 2004 through 2008 and now serves on its General Government Legislative Action Committee. Having a desire to see young people better educated in government, Brian previously served as Chairman of the Civic Education Committee of the North Carolina City and County Managers Association and on the Steering Committee of the North Carolina Civic Education Consortium. He has also been recognized as a Credentialed City Manager by the International City and County Management Association. Brian is married to Julie, and they have two children, Andrew and Erin.
Highlights of the new fiscal year
In June, the Concord City Council adopted a new budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year. State law requires the City Manager to recommend a budget to Council by the end of May, and a balanced budget must be adopted before the new fiscal year begins on July 1. The new City-wide budget totals over 213 million dollars for all funds, including utilities and special revenue funds.
The FY 2013-14 General Fund budget, funded primarily through property and sales tax revenues, totals nearly 69 million dollars for City personnel, operations, capital improvements, and debt service. The tax rate remains at 48 cents per 100 dollars of valuation. There were no increases in rates for the water, wastewater, or stormwater funds. As per policy, we will continue to monitor Duke Energy wholesale cost changes to determine the need for Purchased Power Adjustments (up or down) for electric charges during the year.
Per Council’s direction, the focus has been on maintaining essential services provided to residents and businesses. To do this and to continue to make basic capital purchases, 1.64 million dollars were appropriated from the City’s Capital Reserve Fund. We are careful not to use reserves to fund operational items, because that would lead to a reliance on non-recurring revenues and trouble if the reserves are depleted.
The City's property tax rate continues to be among the lowest third of full-service North Carolina municipalities with populations greater than thirty-five thousand, and the lowest of those that do not charge solid waste and/or recycling fees.
Like most organizations, the City was not able to weather the recession without impacting jobs. This budget eliminated two full-time positions (neither currently filled) and "froze" sixteen more with no appropriated salary, saving over 672 thousand dollars. No sworn police positions or firefighter positions have been frozen. Including these positions, the City has eliminated twenty-four full-time and four part-time positions since July 2010 through attrition and reassignment of duties.
After several years of tight budgets and limited resources, several departments requested new positions during the budget process to meet increasing customer needs. Only a few requests were recommended and adopted, leaving the other needs remaining for the FY 2014-15 budget process. The adopted budget includes five new full-time positions, including two new police positions and one part-time job, along with the unfreezing of three frozen positions within the organization. Adding (or filling) these positions will enable these departments to provide a consistent level of service as demand continues to increase.
The budget also contains funds for two small, merit-based salary adjustments for coworkers. The Council’s goal is to maintain a General Fund balance (savings account) target between thirty and thirty-five percent of expenditures, and staff continues to ensure our budget meets the Council goal.
A few highlights and challenges for the new fiscal year
The budget will certainly enable the City to maintain and enhance services in many areas. At the same time there are future challenges to overcome. At the State level, the General Assembly continues to consolidate power in Raleigh in many areas of previously-local control, particularly related to growth management. Fortunately, the Legislature has thus far kept to the promise not to use existing municipal revenues to balance the budget. However, there are other changes under discussion that could impact local revenues.
The most far reaching efforts are directed toward tax reform. Modernization is needed, but true reform would include the broadening and simplification of the base, rather than the shifting of responsibilities and/or reducing local revenues. This year, State representatives promised the changes will be at least revenue neutral for local government and it appears that is what has taken place.
Most people now realize that with the proper management tools in place, no growth is as bad, or worse, than too much. However, many also remember that rapid growth without checks and balances can overstress infrastructure and undermine the quality of life. Continuing efforts to be user-friendly and ensure balance, the budget includes purchasing the Accela software currently used by Cabarrus County. Concord and the County are pursuing a partnership use this software to make the development review process more seamless, a great example of how technology can make it easier to interact with local governments.
Concord, Kannapolis, and Albemarle are jointly funding a line to bring treated Yadkin River water from the Albemarle system, with construction beginning in 2013. Concord will fund its portion from reserves; the line will help avoid water shortages encountered during recent droughts and provide capacity for future economic growth.
Concord Regional Airport (CRA) continues to be a vital resource in supporting the business and general aviation communities. Recent efforts at the Federal level to eliminate funding for the contract control tower program have been challenging. Funding for this program is secure through the end of the Federal fiscal year (September 30), but uncertain after. There is interest in providing scheduled commercial flights from CRA to a destination and back during particular days of the week. While there will be some upfront costs to make this arrangement work, it provides the opportunity for other revenue sources and solidifies the airport’s status to qualify for FAA funding for airports with commercial-type operations.
The Transportation Improvement Fund was created by the City Council almost fifteen years ago. The equivalent of two cents of the property tax rate combined with dollars generated from local vehicle license fees are restricted each year, and are often used to supplement private or NCDOT funds for projects. Developer and NCDOT delays postponed some projects to the current fiscal year, including a traffic signal at George Liles Parkway and Village Drive and the rehabilitation of Burrage Road. New funds for this year will help connect Weddington and Old Holland Roads, continue design work for improvements to Brookwood Avenue, match dollars for the traffic management grant and the NE Subset sidewalk extension, and improve Virginia Street.
Many other NCDOT projects also involve some type of financial participation from Concord’s Transportation Fund. These other projects include the extension of George Liles Parkway, current and future widening on I-85 (and interchange improvements), widening Derita Road, and more (you can search for local projects at ncdot.gov
An existing Fire and Life Safety ladder company will be moved to a new station planned on Weddington Road adjacent to the Rocky River. This station will provide better protection and also help support the City’s enhanced Insurance Service Office (ISO) class 2 rating, and also house a Cabarrus County EMS unit. Additionally, it will be located at the trailhead for the future Hector H. Henry, II Greenway segment in that area and be adjacent to a proposed City park that will include a dog park.
Another major budget item is to purchase new self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) for each firefighter, sometimes known as an air-pack. All are being replaced at one time in order for the equipment to be compatible and interchangeable.
This is just a snapshot of the FY 2013-14 budget, which is the City's financial, operational, and performance plan for this fiscal year. The full document containing more detail on approved expenditures is available at concordnc.gov/budget.