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PUBLISHED ONLINE JUNE 23, 2022   •   VOL. 4, NO. 25

Stories and photos by WINGATE LASSITER unless credited otherwise
(Click on highlighted link to e-mail the editor)
 

 

County budget done with more school funding

Without discussion, the County Commissioners adopted the 2022-23 county budget Monday evening with a net increase of almost $2.8 million in funding for Johnston County's public schools.

That includes an increase over the current year's budget of almost $5.7 million for operating expenses offset by elimination of funding for 
capital expenditures by the schools.

Johnston's Board of Education had requested $6 million for capital outlay in addition to an increase of almost $8.4 million for operations in the year ahead.

No explanation was given for leaving out capital funding for the school system. Meanwhile, commissioners have authorized a $177-million school-bond issue to be put on the ballot for November's General Election.


Here's the final tally on county funding for Johnston County Public Schools and Johnston Community College:

EDUCATION FUNDING Current budget Requested Approved
Schools Current Expense $79,900,000 $88,271,931 $85,573,000
Schools Capital Outlay $2,900,000 $6,052,774 - 0 -
College Current Expense $4,853,910 $6,028,933 $6,028,933
College Capital Outlay $2,091,176 $1,189,784 $1,090,943
Totals $89,745,086 $101,543,422 $92,692,876


Property-tax rate unchanged; fees for water and sewer going up
The new budget is balanced without an increase in the county's property-tax rate of 73 cents per $100 valuation. It does include fee increases for water and sewer services and solid-waste disposal plus higher fees for building inspections. (Higher rates for sewer service will impact the Town of Smithfield and several other municipalities that rely on the county's treatment plant.)

On top of recently approved pay raises for many county employees, the new budget provides money for across-the-board raises of 3% in July with an additional performance-pay adjustment of 2% for qualifying employees in October.

Also funded are 51 new positions in 13 county departments: 11 in the new Detention Center, 8 in Emergency Medical Services, 8 in Social Services, 6 in Public Health, 3 in Building Inspections, 2 in Planning, and one apiece in Human Resources, Buildings and Grounds, Cooperative Extension, Animal Services, and Parks, Greenways & Open Space, plus 6 in the Public Utilities Enterprise Fund and 2 in the Solid Waste Enterprise Fund.

Commissioners' Vice Chairman Patrick Harris offered the budget resolution adopted Monday. He had been designated as the county board's liaison to work out funding levels acceptable to commissioners and school leaders especially. Those negotiations took place behind the scenes (an allowable practice since no meetings took place at which a majority of elected board members were present).

The budget includes additional Special Appropriations based on recent appeals presented to commissioners for more money in the year ahead:
• $722,000 to the Public Library of Johnston County and Smithfield (the library's trustees had requested $843,160; the past year's appropriation was $610,000).
• $625,000 to the Triangle Land Conservancy as requested for purchases and easements to protect environmentally sensitive properties from development.
• $250,000 as a one-time extra contribution to Harbor Inc., Johnston's non-profit agency assisting victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse (in addition to $75,000 normally budgeted for the service).
• $158,339 to enable the Johnston Area Transit Service (JCATS) set up a pilot program for on-demand, individual public transportation similar to Uber.
• $50,000 in additional matching-grant funds for Johnston Regional Airport (beyond $200,000 in the county manager's proposed budget).
• $28,000 for the Smithfield Rescue Mission (up from $21,000 this past year).
• $15,000 for Special Olympics of Johnston County (restored after an interruption because of the coronavirus pandemic).

Recent funding requests for more county aid were not granted for the Town of Princeton's proposed community building ($350,000), the ReEntry program for domestic-violence offenders ($15,000 approved instead of $150,000 requested), the Youth Advisory Council's proposal to expand mentoring for high schoolers ($20,000), and a doubling of assistance for the Partnership for Children (keeping that annual appropriation at $50,000).

The new budget raises property-tax rates in four rural fire-protection districts – Bentonville, Strickland's Crossroads, West Johnston, and Wynn (Four Oaks) – and it raises the tax rate assessed on properties within the Moccasin Creek Service District. Those increases range from 1.5 to 4 cents per $100 valuation.

The General Fund budget for 2022-23 totals $309,059,934. To keep the final version in balance in light of appropriations added Monday to the county manager's proposed budget, commissioners increased anticipated property-tax revenue by $3 million to $183.7 million, sales-tax revenue by $2 million to almost $53 million, and appropriated $2,806,215 from General Fund reserves.

VIEW more details about the 2022-23 budget on the county's website>

Commissioners approve relocation of graves in West Smithfield
Granting a request from developers of a large residential subdivision across US 70 Business from the Amazon distribution center, the county board approved removal of 16 graves in an abandoned cemetery to make way for construction of Floyd Landing, a 698-unit project of single-family houses, townhouses, and apartments. The human remains will be re-interred in nearby Sunset Memorial Park, a cemetery maintained by the Town of Smithfield. State law requires county commissioners to authorize such removal of graves, even though these – in what was once known as the Parrish-Holt Cemetery – lie within the town's jurisdiction.
 




Friday's storm felled trees, cut power, left little rain

Downtown Smithfield's director Sarah Edwards got this sunset view above Market Street following last Friday evening's storm that brought damaging winds yet a pittance of rainfall: just 0.19 of an inch recorded Friday evening by the National Weather Service at Johnston Regional Airport.

Much of South Smithfield was without power for more than two hours after a tree fell on South Second Street, with another tree-caused outage along Outlet Center Drive, Town Manager Mike Scott reported. In addition, "the damage caused a bank of regulators to blow in the delivery station on Hospital Road," he said.

The blasts of wind interrupted Downtown's Third StrEATery event, where folks on hand "jumped into action" to secure overturned tables and move entertainment devices to safety, Ms. Edwards reported on Facebook.

Johnston's 9-1-1 Director Brett Renfrow reported to the County Commissioners Monday that his staff fielded 1,240 calls between 6 and 9 p.m. Friday, mostly about trees on roadways and power outages throughout the county. "We really got no warning" that "winds of that magnitude" were headed this way, he said. As a result, off-duty personnel were called back to duty to help handle the call volume, and they "performed admirably," he reported.

P.S. Our area did get a bit more rain last night from remnants of thunderstorms coming out of Virginia, but not much: just 0.33 of an inch measured at the airport.

 



Chamber names Benton Sawrey "Emerging Leader"

That honor was presented at last week's Legacy Awards event of the Triangle East Chamber of Commerce.

Pictured here (in the middle) with Chamber CEO Maureen McGuiness and Chamber board chair Mark McDonnell, Mr. Sawrey is an attorney based in Smithfield who recently won the Republican Party's nomination for election in November to a seat in the North Carolina Senate that's reserved for Johnston County as a result of legislative redistricting. (Triangle East Chamber photo)

Other awards presented to individuals by the Chamber:
• Small Businessperson of the Year – Kimberly Wooten, owner of Selma Jewelry.
• Lifetime Achievement Award – Jackie Lacey, former Selma Council member.
• Citizen of the Year – Bennie Cherry, a Town of Wilson's Mills employee who volunteers with two fire departments and other community services.

Formerly the Smithfield-Selma Area Chamber of Commerce, the Triangle East Chamber represents business interests in the towns of Archer Lodge, Kenly, Micro, Princeton, and Wilson's Mills in addition to Selma and Smithfield plus the unincorporated Cleveland community.

 


 

KS Bank moves up in ranks of N.C.-based banks

A year ago Smithfield-based KS Bank ranked 31st among the largest banks and credit unions based in N.C., according to Business North Carolina. Based on 2021 revenue reports, KS Bank has moved up to 29th place.

The independently published magazine shows KS Bank's revenue last year reached $21 million, a gain of 13.8% over 2020's number. Last year's net income for the bank reached $6 million, a gain of 13.4%.

The largest N.C.-based bank in 2021 was Bank of America with revenue of almost $90 billion and net income approaching $32 billion. Truist Financial (formerly BB&T merged with Sun Trust) was second with revenue approaching $22.2 billion and income of more than $6.4 billion. Both of those banks are based in Charlotte.

In third place was First Citizens Bank (founded in Smithfield, now headquartered in Raleigh) with revenue exceeding $2 billion and net income of $548 million. State Employees' Credit Union was fourth with revenue of more than $1.5 billion and net income of $557 million.

VIEW the magazine's complete 2021 report for the state's top 50 banks>

 



On hand for a ribbon-cutting for the automated checkout locker are (left to right) library staffers Dustin Mobley, Katie Guthrie, and Director Johnnie Pippin along the Vice Chair Terri Lee and Chair Megan Shaner of the library's Board of Trustees.

Public Library launches 24/7 checkout service

The Public Library of Johnston County and Smithfield has set up a self-service system where borrowers can order books and other items for pickup from a secure locker in the vestibule of the library's main entrance at the off-street parking lot.
 
How the holdings locker system works:

  • Patrons will select their pickup library as "Smithfield Locker" via the PLJCS online catalog.
  • Patrons will receive a notification e-mail or text when their items are ready for pickup.
  • Patrons will have 24/7 access to the locker to get their awaiting holds.
  • Walk up to the locker’s touchscreen and either scan your library card or type in your library card number.
  • One of the 38 lockers will pop open to allow patrons access to retrieve their borrowed materials. A due-date receipt will print for the patron.

 Items will be held within the locker system up to three days.

The holdings locker system has been made possible by funding from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services under provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act as administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
 
For more information, visit www.pljcs.org or call 984-985-BOOK.


Two appointed to Public Library's Board of Trustees
The County Commissioners at Monday's meeting reappointed Jennifer Seagraves of Cleveland Township and appointed a new member, Emily Gail Scott of Smithfield, to the Board of Trustees of the Public Library of Johnston County and Smithfield.
VIEW the board's current roster posted on the PLJCS website>

 



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WHAT'S COMING UP?

Town Council hopes to wrap up budget work next week

Facing a June 30 deadline for adoption of a Town of Smithfield budget for fiscal 2022-23, the Town Council has scheduled a budget session for 6:30 p.m. Monday at Town Hall. (A second session on Tuesday may be held if necessary.)
VIEW the town manager's proposed budget as it now stands>


County's land-use revisions to be unveiled Wednesday

Following a year of public meetings, committee hearings, surveys, studies, and discussions, the Johnston County Planning Department will present proposed revisions to the county's Comprehensive Land Use Plan during a public forum that begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Agricultural Center off NC 210 west of Smithfield. "There will be a brief presentation at 6:30 p.m. followed by a question and answer period and an informal open house session," reads the county's announcement. Approval of the plan's final details must come later from the County Commissioners.

Another "Shred Event" this Saturday at SSS parking lot

Register of Deeds Craig Olive announced this week that another of his office's "Shred Event" is scheduled this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the parking lot of Smithfield-Selma High School. "I will continue my efforts to prevent identity theft as long as I am in public service," Mr. Olive stated. "These shred events provide our citizens a free way to dispose of personal and sensitive information." His office hosted a similar event in mid-April.
 


PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT



DEATHS & FUNERALS

Click on the name to read an obituary, usually posted by the funeral home

JANICE McLAMB LEE, 76 – died June 21

LYNDA HARDEE PARRISH, 75 – died June 15

SYLVIA GAYE PEARCE THOMPSON, 81 – died June 15

 



A WORD (OR TWO) FROM THE EDITOR

An update on Smithfield's billing for electricity

Here's a bit of news from updated information compiled by Councilman Travis Scott: The Town of Smithfield will continue to charge the lowest residential rates of any electric utility operating in Johnston County.

Mr. Scott sent us these numbers – based on proposed rate increases by Duke Energy and municipalities in Johnston that operate power systems – for a typical household that consumes 1
,250 kilowatts in a month:
Smithfield – $128.45 (unchanged for another year); Duke Energy (including its West Smithfield customers) – $153.50 July-October, $147.24 November-June; Selma – $149.57; Benson – $163.63; Clayton – $178.50.

That's the good news for many of Smithfield's households.

Not so good is the fact that the town's residents are now being charged more for water and sewer service plus garbage and trash pickup than what we're paying for electricity. The latest monthly bill received by the editor's household charged us $60 more for town services other than electricity – 80% more, to put it another way.

And it's apparently going to get worse since the coming year's County of Johnston budget includes sewer-rate hikes for its municipal as well as residential "customers." That includes the Town of Smithfield, which sends its wastewater to the county's treatment plant on the Neuse (that was originally built by the town yet turned over to the county some years ago to serve several towns in central Johnston).

If that's the cost of protecting the fragile environment from our wastefulness, so be it.

At least we've got that electric-bill monkey off our backs, thanks to the state's action several years back to eliminate the burdensome debt Smithfield and other municipalities had to bear after construction of the Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant in neighboring Wake County 35 years ago.

 



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