County Holds Budget Talks
Moore County Commissioner Nick Picerno expressed dissatisfaction with several areas of the county budget during a hearing on the subject Thursday night.
Commissioners' Chairman Larry Caddell, Commissioner Tim Lea and Picerno were present for the special meeting, held at the Agricultural Center in Carthage. Commissioners Jimmy Melton and Craig Kennedy were absent.
Caddell turned the program over to Picerno at the beginning of the program, calling him a "humble" man.
"A good, Godly man should be humble," Caddell said. "The budget is his specialty, and he has worked hard with his staff."
Picerno began by stating what he thought the budget "should look like."
"What bothers me is that spending needs to be prioritized," Picerno told County Manager Cary McSwain, who made the budget presentation at the May 1 meeting of the county board. "I believe that public education should have high priority in funding, as well as law enforcement, but over the past few years law enforcement has seen the largest cuts. A lot of the cuts that Cary has given us tonight are in that department, so I have asked the county manager to go back and take another look at this issue."
Picerno said that vacant positions is one area in which McSwain could implement cuts.
"We don't want to fire anyone or lay anyone off, but I was shocked to see the number of vacancies there are in the system. Now would be a good time to scrutinize which positions could be eliminated."
A county employee in the audience stated that there were 27 vacant positions in the county, while Lea said his understanding was that there were 35.
"I take responsibility for this (misunderstanding about budget priorities)," Picerno said. "I didn't give him (McSwain) very good direction."
Each of the three commissioners in attendance gave brief talks to the more than 30 county employees and others who gathered to hear the budget presentation.
Lea said that budgets "are tough, sensitive, and impacting. Whatever road we take it impacts peoples' lives.
"Washington, D.C. has a $16 trillion debt, and Moore County is doing the same thing with the debt that we are accumulating," he said. "And a lot of county employees say they are concerned about what the county manager is doing with the budget and with their health care benefits, but not one time has a county manager ever approved a budget. That lies with the county commissioners. It's a nice political move because he gets hit instead of us. Talk to us rather than the county manager, because that's our responsibility."
Picerno said that he found comparing Moore County government to the federal government "offensive."
"There's a big difference. They're accumulating debt in D.C. while we're paying down," he said. "We're not borrowing money, our budget is balanced."
No action was taken regarding the budget at Thursday's event. Another hearing will be held at an as of yet undetermined date.
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