DAVIDSON COUNTY — Davidson County Board of Commissioners approved the 2021-22 fiscal year budget this week with no property tax increase.
A total of $146.2 million in proposed revenue is scheduled for the adopted budget. In the budget, property taxes will remain at their current rate of 54 cents per $100 of property valuation. An increase in sales tax revenue is projected, which came from a 17% increase in taxable sales over the past year.
A decrease in intergovernmental revenue was reported, largely in Social Services’ foster care programs. This total was reduced by the state. Interest earnings are down dramatically. The federal government changed the rates in mid-2020, according to Davidson County Manager Casey Smith. Whereas the county was previously earning more than $1 million in interest, it will now collect roughly $100,000.
Also during the county’s first regular June board meeting, commissioners received an update on a partnering agency even as a decision that weighs heavily on the sustainability of the county’s foster care system looms. Smith explained to commissioners that Cardinal Innovations, which provides the county with care for individuals with mental illness and substance-use disorders, as well as intellectual and developmental disabilities, will no longer be an independent entity.
Cardinal announced last month it will merge with Vaya Health, another of North Carolina’s largest managed care organizations. Vaya will assume responsibility for coordinating services and support for Cardinal once the groups are consolidated.
“The particular issue of foster care became [specifically] important last fall,” Smith said. “As you are aware, Union County and Cabarrus County decided to petition the state to disengage from Cardinal, to pick another LME to move to, and that set off a chain reaction within the catchment area, which is 20 counties strong. Since that time, other counties have decided to move and then obviously what happened a couple of days ago is going to change the game even further.”
The county is considering a disengagement proposition, and Vaya is scheduled to visit the Davidson County Department of Social Services at its board meeting Tuesday. Smith is working to arrange meetings between DSS board members, commissioners, staff and board members of other organizations to determine Davidson’s next step of action.
A nine-step process of disengagement would begin with a letter from commissioners to North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen. In December, commissioners received a report from Trey Sutten, CEO of Cardinal Innovations, who shed light on recent improvements that went into fixing Davidson County’s issues with its placement of children with uncertain custody.
According to Smith, contemplation of alternatives to Cardinal became necessary when the progress stalled and the organization became insolvent, necessitating the merger.
“We have serious issues with foster care proper placements … and then the timeliness of those placements, getting them where they need to be as quickly as possible,” Smith said. “As you are aware, Cardinal came before this board, they’ve come before the DSS board to go through their plan of action, and we’ve worked with them on that plan of action. … I personally stayed in contact with their CEO for a variety of issues related to these children.
“Things did not get better.”
Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.