Justin Amos, Strategy & Budget Analyst, City of Charlotte & 2nd Vice President, NCLGBA Board

NCLGBA: The People Who Balance NC Communities

We invite you to hear from North Carolina’s local government budget professionals who believe in the value of public service and consider it an honor to bring value to their communities in their respective roles. We are highlighting NCLGBA members who are an important part to the balance in their communities.

Today we will hear from the City of Charlotte’s Justin Amos.

The City of Charlotte, located in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, is the largest city between Baltimore, Maryland and Jacksonville, Florida. The City is in the Piedmont Region of the Carolinas, two hours east of the Appalachian Mountains and three and one-half hours west of the Atlantic Ocean. Location and growth reinforce the City’s role as a regional center in the Southeast. Charlotte was incorporated in 1768, became the county seat in 1774, presently covering 310 square miles of the 527 square miles in Mecklenburg County. The City referred to as the “Queen City” owes its name to German born Queen Charlotte, wife of England’s King George III, and the County’s name to her birthplace of Mecklenburg. The City’s vision is to be a model of excellence that puts citizens first and makes this a community of choice for living, working, and leisure. The City’s mission is to ensure the delivery of quality public services and to promote the safety, health, and quality of life of its citizens.

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What was the biggest challenge facing your community this fiscal year and how do you see it impacting the budget development process for FY 2017?
Charlotte faced a $21.7M gap in revenues going into FY2016. This was a result of a combination of factors that included the loss of BPLT ($18.1M) and the loss of property tax revenue from the recently completed review by Mecklenburg County of the 2011 Property Assessment revaluation that resulted from higher declines at the end of the review process than had been projected. This resulted in reducing the City’s total property tax revenue by $10.8M. While the losses came from two of the City’s main sources of revenue, Charlotte continues to grow and place growing service demands on City infrastructure.

The losses were addressed by reduction in city services ($2.3M), reduction in expenses within departments ($4.5M), reducing market compensation increase to city employees in FY2016 (3% increase reduced to 1.5% for a savings of $2.6M), increase in regulatory user fees ($1M), shift of $2.1M of expenses into other appropriate funds outside of GF; 1 cent property tax increase, and the elimination of 101.50 frozen FTEs, avoiding layoffs however.

While the revenue picture in Charlotte has improved going into FY2017, the City continues to face the burdens of increased service demands with incremental growth in property and sales taxes. City Council has made public safety the top priority next year, and we are proposing to add 75 positions (50 sworn officers, 25 civilian) for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and 18 firefighter positions for a new ladder company for the Charlotte Fire Department.  The City Manager presented his recommended budget to City Council on Monday, May 2nd and Council will vote on Monday, June 13th on the final FY2017 Operating and FY2017-2021 Community Investment Plan.

What drew you to a career in public service?
My parents have been and continue to be the biggest influence in my life. My dad taught 8th grade American history until he retired five years ago. My mother has worked as a nursing administrator at Wesley Long Hospital in Greensboro since 1979. From an early age they both instilled in me the value of public service and the impact one can have on your community. I pretty much knew what I wanted to do since I was 8 years old, about the same age that I figured out that I wouldn’t make the NBA or enjoy a career that involved math or science… lucky for me we now have Excel.

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What career advice do you wish someone would have shared with you when you started your first local government budgeting job?
I would tell them not to worry about figuring out your career path as soon as you start your first job. You will have a long and varied career, one that hopefully will be enjoyable, fun, exciting and challenging. You will meet so many wonderful people in our profession that it is more important to build relationships, to learn from your peers, to do some networking, and to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Do not be afraid to network and reach out to people, they will support you throughout your career. If you concentrate your energy on building relationships and recognizing opportunities, then your career path will be one full of challenging issues, a wealth of contacts and relationships to depend on in times both good and bad, and you will leave your mark on your community—which is the reason most of us got into public service.

What excites you most about what you have been working on during FY 2016 in your community and your department?
In Charlotte, FY 2016 has been a year full of interesting projects, new department assignments, and challenges. Charlotte continues to build out the state’s only functional light rail system, and the $1.1B extension to UNC-Charlotte should be nearly complete by 2017. We opened the first segment of Charlotte’s street car line in July and continue to invest in bike lanes, sidewalks, and greenways. As a part of the 2014 bond package, we are preparing for a 26.2 mile greenway trail (Cross Charlotte Trail) that will run the length of Mecklenburg County, from Pineville to the Cabarrus County line near the Charlotte Motor Speedway. When it is finished, hopefully I can help organize the City’s first greenway/trail based marathon.

Charlotte’s Budget & Evaluation office was recently merged with several other financial related departments to form a new Management & Financial Services department. We continue to find ways to better integrate our duties and to continue to serve the organization by being the source for budget, strategy and performance related issues.

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If you didn’t work in budgeting, what would you do?
Growing up I wanted to be a history teacher (like my dad) and high school football coach. If not that, then I’d like to work for a professional sports franchise (if I couldn’t participate).  When I retire, I’d like to learn to brew beer and open my own brewery somewhere in the mountains. It would be called Famous Amos Ales.

Tell us something about yourself that others may not know.
I’ve run 8 marathons and plan to complete by 9th this January at Walt Disney World. I’ve traveled to 48 of 50 states (still need to visit North Dakota and Alaska) but I’ve been a Tar Heel since I was born (my mom still has my baby blue shirt that I came home from the hospital). I’ve never lived anywhere else, and don’t plan to move anytime soon

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