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Cumberland County approves budget


Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Jeannette Council's name. 

The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners on Monday night passed the fiscal 2023 budget. 

 The budget passed on a 4-2 vote. Voting in favor were Commissioners Larry Lancaster, Toni Stewart, Jeannette Council and Chairman Glenn Adams. Commissioners Jimmy Keefe and Michael Boose voted against the budget. Commissioner Charles Evans was absent. 

 The budget, which includes just under $553 million in expenditures across all county funds, keeps the county’s property tax rate at 79.9 cents per $100 valuation.

The vote followed a public hearing on the proposed spending plan.

Nine of 10 people who signed up to speak appeared before the board, mostly supporting the budget request from Cumberland County Schools. 

School board member Charles McKellar cautioned commissioners that not funding Superintendent Marvin Connelly’s request lacks planning for the future.

McKellar said that in the past he did not always support the school budget because it lacked clarity and transparency. However, this budget has 100 percent of his support, he said.

Cynthia Brent, the Education Committee chairperson for the local NAACP, said 23 out of 89 Cumberland County schools are designated Pace schools, which operate at subpar levels. She said one-third of county schools including elementary, middle school, and high schools are below standard. 

“That was in 2019, and I think that number will increase by two later this year,” she said.  

Brent said the pandemic has severely affected students and there is now a need for more counselors, social workers, nurses, teacher assistants and other resources such as internet access. 

The budget includes $84.3 million in current expense funding for Cumberland County Schools, an increase of $1.3 million from fiscal 2022. The school system had asked for $88.2 million, an increase of $5.1 million over last year’s budget.

The budget also includes an additional $3.9 million for Cumberland County Schools for school health nurses, school resource officers and school crossing guards. 

The budget includes $258,600 to move forward with Phase 1 of the Gray’s Creek water project to serve two elementary schools and residential customers located along the route. The county sought to get the Fayetteville Public Works Commission involved, but PWC declined because the population density would not make providing water to the area cost-effective.

The budget also seeks to address recruitment and retention issues. The budget includes a 4% cost-of-living adjustment for county employees. Commissioners said during recent budget deliberations that the 4% cost-of-living adjustment is offset by the 8.5% inflation rate.

It also includes market adjustments to increase the entry-level salary rates for sheriff’s deputies and detention officers.

It also earmarks $95,000 to conduct an organization-wide classification and market study to address salary compression, inequity and competitive pay within ranges. County Manager Amy Cannon previously told commissioners that she did not have the employees or skill sets to conduct such a survey and must seek outside help to conduct the study.

The budget also provides funding for several outside agencies, including Cumberland HealthNet, the Vision Resource Center and the Arts Council of Fayetteville-Cumberland County.

The $30,000 for Cumberland HealthNet was not included in the initial proposed budget. It was a new request and Cannon said she did not recommend funding the agency in an effort to limit budget growth.

The Vision Resource Center received an additional $3,000 from what was initially proposed in the budget. The proposed budget recommended funding the agency at last year’s level of $7,000. It had asked for $10,000.

The final allocation for the Arts Council is a reduction of $33,000 from what was initially proposed. Commissioners took the $33,000 and divided it between Cumberland HealthNet ($30,000) and the Vision Resource Center (additional $3,000). The recommended budget funded the Arts Council at $68,000. The county has a 6% occupancy tax on hotel and motel rooms, and 25% of those net revenues go to the Arts Council. The county projects that the Arts Council will get nearly $2.2 million in occupancy taxes collected in fiscal 2023. 

Cumberland County, Board of Commissioners, budget, Cumberland County Schools