Vision for the future

Published 9:26 am Wednesday, April 10, 2019

JACKSON – Since December, the Northampton Board of Commissioners have worked to develop a strategic plan in order to accomplish their goal of moving the county forward. They unveiled that plan here to the public at their regular meeting on Apr. 1.

The plan covers years 2019 through 2023.

“We’ve worked day and night to come up with one plan that we could possibly live with,” Chairman Charles Tyner explained. “A plan is a plan. You can change it, you can detour, you can not even do it. But at least there is a plan.”

“This gives direction for everybody in the county,” he continued.

Tyner credited Vice Chair Geneva Faulkner with facilitating the development and discussions about the strategic plan, but she was quick to note the entire Board contributed to the plan.

“There are many things we know we have to do to improve our county,” Faulkner said before she read the details to those in attendance, explaining they believed the areas represented would have the most impacts throughout the county first.

The plan includes goals in a number of areas such as recreation, water, tax rate, human resources, finance, economic development, planning and zoning, and capital projects.

For recreation, the commissioners want to expand the department’s reach into each community by 2023. Some of these goals include developing recreation options in Rich Square and Lake Gaston, partnering with the school system to improve facilities at the old Creeksville site, and starting a new expansion phase of the Cultural and Wellness Center in Jackson, that will include a pool and gym.

The goal for expanding water service to currently underserved Northampton residents has been something Tyner has pushed for since taking office. The Board’s goal outlined in the strategic plan is to seek funding and then begin designing and constructing water lines in 2020.

The tax rate in Northampton County is currently at $0.92 cents per $100 of assessed value. By July 2019, the Board intends to cut residential taxes by half a cent. They also plan to aggressively seek delinquent taxes.

“It is not fair for some to bear the burden for all,” Faulkner noted about the taxes.

In regards to county employees, the strategic plan states the goal is to reduce the workforce by at least five percent by 2023. This will be done through attrition, staff reassignment in vacant positions, and automation.

“We’re not looking to get rid of people,” Faulkner clarified. “We’re looking to make it a more streamlined, more efficient process. And as people leave and as vacancies are open, [we’re looking] to be able to reassign people so that they can move into those positions, if qualified.”

The outlined strategic plan for finance is to provide transparency and focus on fiscal responsibility. This will be attained through monthly financial statements and monthly status of current year audits as well as a bi-annual finance retreat between the commissioners and the finance department.

Goals for economic development include submitting a minimum of 20 grants per year to support new and existing business expansion, creating a comprehensive marketing plan, and developing an economic stimulus package.

For planning and zoning, the Board’s goal is to rewrite its ordinances and regulations to be more “expansion friendly” by 2020.

The last part of the proposed strategic plan deals with capital projects. This year, there are plans to complete a feasibility study for both a new county courthouse and the completion of the remaining county office complex. They will also receive updated facility plans and needs from the school district.

After hearing the presentation, Tyner called for a motion on the 2019-2023 strategic plan. Faulkner motioned to approve and Commissioner Kelvin Edwards seconded. The vote was unanimously in favor.

“If you have any concerns or suggestions, we’d be happy to hear it,” Faulkner concluded.