School funding debated as about 400 attend Moore County budget meeting

CAMERON, N.C. (WNCN) — About 400 people turned out Wednesday for a hearing on the county’s budget, many of them urging county leaders to raise taxes to fund schools.

“I think it’s time. It’s not their fault. This mess isn’t their making, but that the solution still needs to come and it needs to come quickly,” said Karin Kent, a parent of two students in the county’s schools.

The public hearing was supposed to take place Tuesday, but the meeting room at the Historic Courthouse in Carthage could only accommodate about 275 people. So, county commissioners moved the meeting to Wednesday at Union Pines High School.

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“What we’re really asking the county tonight is to help us help ourselves,” said Kent.

The school board is asking county commissioners for about $4.5 million more in next fiscal year’s budget, which takes effect July 1.

The county manager has recommended funding about half of that request. The gap could be made up by increasing the property tax rate by 2 cents per $100 of assessed value.

County commissioners haven’t increased the tax rate in about a decade. Some are concerned that increasing taxes could be a burden on lower-income residents.

Daniel Armstrong is a teacher’s assistant who spoke to commissioners Wednesday, saying if nothing changes with the budget he could lose five days of pay while his wife could lose her part-time receptionist job entirely.

He says he’s “very concerned. It’s hard enough now with the budget the county gives the (teacher’s assistants) and what they’re expected to do.”

The school system has identified potential cuts if county funding is not increased including: two assistant principal positions, nine custodians as well as administrative assistants and school receptionists.

“What we’re asking for them to do is very affordable for most everyone,” said Armstrong of the property tax increase.

But, some residents are concerned that’s not true.

They’d rather see the state allow the county to increase the sales tax and earmark that money for schools.

A bill that passed the House earlier this year would allow county commissioners to put that on the ballot for voters to consider. Click here to see the legislation.

“I can know that in perpetuity it’s going to go into the schools and not into a general fund where it can be spent by anybody for anything,” said Miriam Chu, who lives in Moore County.

County commissioners are holding a work session on the budget June 13 at 9:30 a.m.

A final vote on the budget is expected June 20.

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