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Budget issues abound

By Staff
Community college allocated $300,000 to buy a new chiller
By DAN PARSONS, Staff Writer
WILLIAMSTON — With a new quarter-cent sales tax waiting to be levied and state Medicaid relief in its infancy, Martin County commissioners on Wednesday heard about a number of items that may still put pressure on county coffers.
Richard James, chairman of Martin County Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, made commissioners aware that with the adoption of the 2007-2009 state budget, JCPC funding was removed from recurring status and is now subject to annual review by the state.
JCPC provides tutoring, mentoring and social-work services for delinquent and at-risk youth, James said. The success of the JCPC services in Martin County has kept juveniles out of jail, which in turn has saved county dollars that would have been spent on their detention, he said
James also said that the lack of funding for, or possible elimination of, JCPC programs could mean qualified Martin County-based service providers leaving the county to find clients.
Asked why the General Assembly settled on cutting JCPC funding, Nancy Hodges, local consultant for N.C. JCPC, said, “They looked at these funds and marked them nonrecurring, and magically created $30 million to balance their budget.”
Commissioner Ronnie Smith said JCPC funding is something he is “extremely concerned” about and would mention it to the N.C. Association of County Commissioners’ board of directors, on which he sits.
Commissioner Mort Hurst said “it sounds to me like this is part of that so-called Medicaid relief kicking in.”
The General Assembly agree to lift some of the counties’ share of Medicaid costs with the adoption of the state’s budget earlier this year. Martin County was promised the minimum first-year relief of $500,000, but Hurst has long been wary of that promise in regard to some state funds, such as a portion of the average daily membership allotment for schools being withheld by the state. The quarter-cent sales tax, approved by Martin County voters Nov. 6, was one option the Legislature gave counties to combat rising Medicaid costs and to pay for schools and public-works needs.
Doug Johnson, speaking during the public comment section of the meeting, said revenue generated by the new tax, funds from the N.C. Education Lottery and Medicaid relief still will not cover the county’s school construction and repair needs.
Johnson developed a proposal to combine funding from the three sources with a loan from the county to the school system to cover maintenance at three county middle schools. The proposal is scheduled to be discussed at the board’s December meeting.
In other business, after much deliberation on how to pay for it, commissioners voted unanimously in favor of a $317,000 budget amendment to pay for a chiller at Martin Community College.
Despite that expenditure, Hurst said, the county’s bank account is in good shape.