Supporters of School Funding Address Board
The Moore County Board of Commissioners played to a full house Tuesday night when the budget hearing packed the meeting room in the historic courthouse in Carthage.
Nineteen people addressed the board in support of full funding for the Moore County Schools. Seven of the speakers made their remarks early in the meeting during the public comment period, probably mistaking that agenda time for the hearing that was held later in the meeting.
“The true value of education is one on which a price tag cannot be placed,” said Dan Rush, who identified himself as a business professional and the son of a teacher, the husband of a former teacher and the father of a student in the county school system.
His comment was typical of messages delivered by parents, teachers and community leaders.
Laura Lang, who chairs the Moore County Board of Education, reminded the commissioners that the public was informed that the latest school bonds would probably mean an increase in the property tax rate. She said the taxpayers were well aware that the capital improvement bonds would mean a tax hike and yet they went ahead and approved the referendum issue.
Lang said that the expected $12 million in state funding cuts will mean fewer administrators, fewer teachers and fewer support personnel to serve students.
The school administration prepared a budget that absorbs all but about $3.1 million in those state losses, but the budget developed by the county manager and his staff does not fund the additional $3.1 million.
Lang asked the commissioners to allow the schools to return later in the year to discuss school funding needs if the financial situation is not resolved.
“We are already cutting very deeply,” Lang said.
Before the board opened the public hearing, County Manager Cary McSwain presented the highlights of the budget. He emphasized that many details of the budget remain uncertain, pending action by the North Carolina General Assembly, which is still working on the state budget. That work includes state funding of the public schools.
The budget proposal totals $125,376,127, representing a 10.8 percent decrease from the revised budget for the current year.
Of that total, $85,056,456 covers the general fund, the budget reflecting operational expenses, including the schools, the sheriff’s department, administration and all other county departments. The overall budget figure includes budgets for the airport and the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The budget retains the present tax rate of 46.5 cents per $100 property valuation. To this is added the Advanced Life Support tax of two cents, which likewise remains the same in the new budget. The ALS tax pays for Emergency Medical Services.
No action was taken on the budget. Earlier in the day the board held a two-hour work session to review several aspects of the budget. The commissioners are scheduled to adopt the 2011-12 budget at their first meeting in June.
In other business Tuesday night, the commissioners voted unanimously to rescind the action taken at their last meeting, when they voted 4-1 not to apply for a transportation grant. Commissioner Tim Lea, the only member supporting the application at the previous meeting, asked to add the matter to the agenda and produced information requested earlier. The grant, if approved by the N.C. Department of Transportation, would provide operational funds for Moore County Transportation Services, which provides bus service for the elderly, disabled, and poor and other eligible individuals through various nonprofit agencies, such as the Department of Aging.
Unlike the budget hearing, a public hearing on a multi-jurisdictional hazard mitigation plan attracted no speakers at all. Staff planner Jeremy Rust reviewed provisions of the plan and recommended approved. The board responded with unanimous adoption of the plan, a program needed by the county in order to qualify for such services as federal flood insurance.
More details will appear in the print version of The Pilot.
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