Moore to Keep Own DA
If the latest state budget measures are adopted, Moore County will retain its district attorney’s office.
And efforts to keep Samarkand Youth Development Center in operation are still very much alive.
“I’m working on that,” state Rep. Jamie Boles said when asked about the Samarkand situation.
The budget adopted by the state House of Representatives includes closing the historic youth services program at Eagle Springs. Its closure was still in the budget when it reached the Senate a week ago.
But Boles said he is negotiating with House leaders and state juvenile justice officials in an effort to restore funding for Samarkand. Boles, who is vice-chairman of the House Justice and Public Safety Committee, was instrumental in preserving Samarkand in the budget two years ago and says he is still working to keep the program in operation.
State Sen. Harris Blake said the residential school for young people in trouble with the law appears destined for closure, barring changes in the budget process. He added that the Samarkand property encompasses 600 acres, with a number of usable facilities, and the state must find some use for the property if the program is discontinued.
Proposals to consolidate 43 prosecutorial districts into 30 larger districts apparently did not pan out because the savings were not there.
“They couldn’t find the savings,” Blake said.
Boles said the DA consolidation idea was one of several money-saving measures examined while House members discussed how to prepare a balanced budget in a weak economy. But closer examination showed that the consolidation would not pay off in the long run.
“I think they’re throwing ideas out there and trying to get feedback,” Boles said.
One factor not considered in the original stages of the budget work was the population growth experienced since the prosecutorial districts were initially formed in the middle of the last century. Among other factors are changes in laws and technology.
Under the original proposal, Moore County’s Prosecutorial District 19D would have been consolidated with Harnett, Johnston and Lee counties and the local office moved to Smithfield.
District Attorney Maureen Krueger objected to that change on the grounds that the proposed new district lines would not be practical inasmuch as Moore County’s judicial district is aligned with Randolph and Montgomery counties.
Although the district attorney’s office is preserved in the latest budget, the sentencing services program will be eliminated. This program is popular with judges, DAs and law-enforcement officers because it sends many offenders into alternative treatment programs and saves prison space. Counties like the program because it saves money by handling eligible offenders through alternative programs and keeps them out of local jails.
However, Boles said the savings per case are not sufficient to justify keeping the program. Also, sentencing services are offered in only 55 of the state’s 100 counties.
Boles and Blake, both Republicans, put one major concern about the budget proceedings to rest.
They said the Senate budget does not include further cuts in funding for public schools and community colleges, and it does not include a reported increase in funding for the UNC system.
“That’s just rumors,” Blake said. “Everything is still in flux.”
Boles said the latest report keeps the K-12 funding provided in the House budget.
The reports refuted by Blake and Boles indicated that the Senate was planning to appropriate $106 million less for the schools and $21 million less for community colleges and $87 million more for the UNC system, than the House version of the budget.
This information alarmed education leaders across the state because of massive cuts already made in the public school funding level. The cuts mean the loss of teaching positions and support positions, as well as losses in other areas traditionally financed by the state. In Moore County alone, the school system has absorbed some $12 million in state funding.
“No one still has a clear understanding of what the final version will be,” Boles said.
Once the House and Senate approve the budget, Gov. Beverly Perdue must either sign the bill or use her veto stamp. If a veto occurs, the legislature would have to vote to override it.
Blake said he has a good relationship with Perdue, despite their political differences, and he believes she will be reasonable about their budget proposals. Perdue is a Democrat. Both chambers are now controlled by Republicans.
Perdue has already expressed opposition to several items in the House budget, especially the Republican refusal to continue a special sales tax due to expire at the end of June. Democrats argue that by continuing the sales tax, the state could plug a $1 billion hole in the revenue side of the budget and reduce education cuts.
Both chambers are digging into a number of issues as well as the budget.
Blake was tied up in committee meetings and Senate sessions until late Thursday. He was back in Raleigh at 8:30 a.m. Friday for a meeting of the Appropriations Subcom-mittee on Health and Human Services, of which he is co-chairman.
In another finance-related matter, the House has voted to lop off one week from the early voting schedule. This would reduce the early voting period to two weeks.
Boles says the reduction makes financial sense and should not cause any substantial inconvenience to voters. He says the action reflects requests from a number of elections boards across the state.
These boards complained that it was costly to counties to operate special polling places for a week when voter participation was not all that active.
Besides, Boles said that the three-week early voting requirement is something that the legislature required counties to do and counties are footing the bill.
“You can’t put a price on voting,” he said. “We knocked off one week. We did not eliminate early voting.”
Senate leaders have set Memorial Day as their target to complete work on the budget, which is supposed to be adopted by July 1.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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