Commissioners to get budget look Monday

By: Scott Bigelow - Staff writer
Ricky Harris

LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Board of Commissioners on Monday will get its first look at County Manager Ricky Harris’ proposed budget for the next fiscal year — and begin considering a request to double funding for the local school system.

The Board of Education for the Public Schools of Robeson County last week voted to ask for an increase in funding from about $12.4 million to about $30 million.

Commissioner David Edge has not had a chance to review the request, but is skeptical.

“I don’t think it’s going to happen,” Edge said. “I know they need more funds, and we tried to work with them on school merger last year, but they turned it down.”

Edge was referring to a plan the commissioners pushed in 2016 to close 30 schools and build 14 and a technical school. The school board never embraced it, and necessary state legislation failed in Raleigh.

Embedded in the $17 million request, among other things, is $3.1 million for school safety, $3.7 million for a 5 percent increase in teacher supplements, $6.3 million for construction of a central office and $2 million to fill an unfunded operating gap caused by changes in spending rules by the legislature.

The county’s tax rate is now 77 cents for every $100 of property. Granting the schools’ full request could add as much as 34 cents to the tax rate, according to Harris, which would make it the highest in North Carolina. Right now the county tax rate is about 25th highest.

Harris does think more local money needs to be provided the schools and said he would like to sit down with school leaders to find common ground. The county ranks next to last in the state for per-pupil local funding of the schools.

The meeting at the county administrative building on North Elm Street begins at 6 p.m. The Robesonian will provide live video coverage of it on Facebook.

There will be three separate public hearings on the Lumbee Tribe’s plans for three subdivisions. Tribal representatives will go before the commissioners seeking preliminary plat approval for the Dream Catcher Raynham Subdivision in Union Township, the Dream Catcher Prospect Subdivision in Smiths Township and Dream Catcher Union Chapel Subdivision in Burnt Swamp Township.

Also on Monday’s agenda is a presentation from the city of Lumberton about a memorial park at Elm Street and Elizabethtown Road and a presentation from Dixon Ivey, Lumberton’s director of Planning & Inspections, about floodplain maps.

The commissioners’ agenda also includes a consent agenda, which includes budget amendments concerning the Parks & Recreation and Health departments, Community Development funds, and the sale of surplus property.

The board is expected to make appointments to the Board of Equalization and Review, and the Lumber River Workforce Development Board.

The commissioners will meet Monday as the County Housing Authority board to hear housing, maintenance and financial reports. They also will consider a resolution for a smoke-free policy for county public housing.

Ricky Harris Harris

Scott Bigelow

Staff writer

Scott Bigelow can be reached at [email protected] Managing Editor T.C. Hunter contributed to this report. He can be reached at 910-816-1974 and [email protected]

Scott Bigelow can be reached at [email protected] Managing Editor T.C. Hunter contributed to this report. He can be reached at 910-816-1974 and [email protected]