As state budget negotiations continue, officials await funding for projects
Published 7:15 pm Tuesday, October 26, 2021
As legislators continue to negotiate with Gov. Roy Cooper on North Carolina’s long-overdue budget, local officials are anxiously awaiting an agreement so they can lock in funding for projects that they say will spur economic development and growth.
House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate Pro Tempore Tim Berger are continuing closed-door negotiations with Cooper. The N.C. House and Senate approved their respective versions of the budget in August. Since then, Cooper and legislative leaders have been sending proposals back and forth; none of them have been released to the public.
“We’re waiting on the legislature to have a budget so potentially the (Washington-Warren) Airport can receive significant funding for runway extension, water, sewer and electricity extension, landing lights, and instrument landing system, and then some other potential hangar projects and what have you,” Beaufort County Economic Development Director Martyn Johnson said
“If that all comes through it’ll be a significant improvement to the airport, and the hope then is that it will attract jets, private jets, and the hope is that will in turn increase property tax revenues and jet fuel revenue,” Johnson added. “So basically making the airport break even.”
Another major project that would benefit from funding includes Aurora’s new industrial park that was recently announced, as well as a satellite Beaufort County Community College campus that will be located on that site.
In announcing the project during an Aurora Leadership Council meeting last week, Aurora Mayor Clif Williams said, “The new day is dawning for all of us.”
PROJECTS IN THE WORKS
Johnson said his office is currently working on 17 economic development projects. Those projects cover areas such as transportation, manufacturing, food production, construction and aviation.
“(The projects are) ranging from potentially using the Beaufort County Industrial Park in Chocowinity as a container yard since there’s a huge need for container storage right now; metalworking, yacht building; a lot of interest in affordable housing, air filtration, drones, maintenance facilities and food processing.
“Don’t expect all of them to locate. But hopefully through laws of probability, we’ll get two or three of them to locate here.
WHERE NEGOTIATIONS STAND
During a meeting of his teacher advisory committee Monday, Cooper indicated that he wants to see better teacher pay included as state budget negotiations continue.
“We’re the last state in the country without a budget, and I know that you guys are just as frustrated as you can possibly be,” Cooper said. “Me, too, but I don’t want a bad budget. I don’t want a budget that hurts education at the end of the day.”
In his own budget proposal, Cooper called for 10% raises on average over the biennium for K-12 teachers, as well as a mimimum wage of $15 an hour for all non-certified school personnel. Cooper’s proposal also provides $80 million to help districts hire more nurses, counselors, psychologists and social workers.
Teachers would receive a 3% pay increase under the Senate’s proposed plan; under the House’s plan, their pay would increase by approximately 5.5%.