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Mecklenburg commissioners chart fresh start for jobs, social services

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/16/18/50/BeUSw.Em.138.jpeg|234
    Diedra Laird - dlaird@charlotteobserver.com
    New Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio lisens during Thursday’s County Commission retreat at the Government Center.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/16/18/50/KfErj.Em.138.jpeg|266
    Diedra Laird - dlaird@charlotteobserver.com
    New County Commission Chairman Trevor Fuller gives a thumbs up as he talks with Commission Vice Chairman Dumont Clarke at Thursday’s County Commission retreat at the Government Center.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/16/18/50/1ty2RD.Em.138.jpeg|194
    Diedra Laird - dlaird@charlotteobserver.com
    County commissioners had a mini-retreat Thursday at the government center. They set their strategic planning that will guide the budget for this year.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/16/18/50/a2m6m.Em.138.jpeg|243
    Diedra Laird - dlaird@charlotteobserver.com
    Commissioners Bill James and George Dunlap talk during Thursday’s County Commission retreat at the Government Center.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/16/18/50/1bFRbP.Em.138.jpeg|231
    Diedra Laird - dlaird@charlotteobserver.com
    Commissioner Vilma Leake greets new County Commission Chair Trevor Fuller at Thursday's County Commission retreat at the Government Center. County commissioners had a mini-retreat today at the government center. They set their strategic planning that will guide the budget for this year.

Mecklenburg County commissioners began charting a fresh start Thursday, adopting four priorities that will guide a new county budget – and the board’s work for the next 18 months.

The priorities include: creating a new economic development plan to draw more jobs to Mecklenburg and help create and sustain small businesses; making county government more efficient and effective; raising the quality of life and making it more equitable throughout the county; and delivering human services more effectively.

The adopted plan will be the framework for a two-day budget planning retreat in late February, said outgoing Budget Director Hyong Yi, who is leaving the county to become an assistant Charlotte city manager.

It will also guide the commission’s work for the next 18 months, particularly after committees are assigned to work on the priorities, board Chairman Trevor Fuller said.

“These goals will help us focus on work in an intentional way,” Fuller said.

Much of the discussion Thursday centered on economic development.

The priority is important, the adopted plan said, because 151,000 Mecklenburg residents live in poverty and more than 223,000 get benefits from the county. The board wants to lower the unemployment rate to 5 percent or lower (the pre-recession rate was 4.6 percent), create jobs for residents of varying education and skills, and grow the values of commercial and business property to lessen the tax burden on homeowners.

Providing human services (public health, mental health and social services) is a core function of county government. Yet problems in delivering mental health and social services have tarnished public perception in recent years.

The board agreed to taking a broader look at reorganizing the county’s human services agency to better serve residents.

Commissioners will also explore whether Mecklenburg’s tax rate is affordable and whether it hurts the county in competing with other counties for businesses.

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