By Richard Sullins | firstname.lastname@example.org
Its official title is Senate Bill 105 – “Base Budget Appropriations for Current Operations of State Agencies” and within its 628 pages is the State of North Carolina’s spending plan for the next two years.
Sanford, Broadway, and Lee County fared very well in the $25.9 billion state budget signed into law by Governor Roy Cooper on Thursday, the first comprehensive spending plan that the state has had in place during the past three years.
“Congratulations to everyone in North Carolina and especially here in Sanford,” said Mayor Chet Mann during the City Council’s meeting last week. “Sanford will be a big recipient of funds for some really outstanding projects that we have been wanting and working at doing, and I am thrilled that this has happened. I’m really excited for Sanford because the money that is in the budget for them will really benefit this community. A lot of hard work has been put into them and now the reward is going to come.”
Among those projects Mann spoke of is a directed grant of $100,000 in non-recurring funds that will be provided to Outreach Mission of Sanford, which operates both men’s and women’s shelters in the city. Outreach Mission has been in existence for over 30 years and assists those who experience homelessness in the community. The funds will assist the homeless shelters in their general operations budgets through June 30.
The Raleigh Executive Jetport at Sanford-Lee County will receive a $9 million appropriation in non-recurring funds for capital improvements, to be provided through the North Carolina Department of Transportation. The Jetport is one of the largest general aviation airports in the state and has 184 aircraft stationed there as of November 1.
Mann said that the budget also contains $34 million in funding for expansion of the city’s water plant, something “that will put Sanford in a considerably great seat moving forward in serving our community and in economic development.”
And there is more for items that increase the livability of the communities among those who call it home.
The Railroad House Historical Association was named as the recipient of $100,000 in funding for capital improvements to the Railroad House. Nearby Depot Park will receive $500,000 in funding for capital improvements there and the city will get $10,000 for a mural project.
The Town of Broadway will be provided $50,000 toward its Veterans Memorial and Lee County was awarded $80,000 for unspecified capital improvement projects.
The budget covers a wide range of spending priorities aimed at helping the state’s economy continue to get back on its feet after the COVID pandemic and addressing years of educational funding levels that fell below the national average.
One of its highest-profile items is a five percent pay raise for most state employees and an average five percent pay raise for teachers over the next two years. Additionally, most teachers would receive a $2,800 bonus from federal funding in their paychecks.
State employees will receive bonuses as well, again by using federal funds: $1,500 for state employees who make less than $75,000 and $1,000 for state employees who make more than $75,000. Law enforcement, correctional officers and staff, and 24-hour residential or treatment facility employees will receive a $1,500 additional benefit.
Tax cuts are a centerpiece of the budget’s fundraising priorities, too. It increases the zero-tax bracket to $25,500, cuts the personal income tax rate to 4.99 percent in 2022 and to 3.99 percent by 2027, increases the child tax deduction by $500 per child, and eliminates the state income tax on military pensions altogether.
Negotiations over the budget had dragged on for four months as Cooper continued to press for expansion of Medicaid and Republican leaders persisted in refusing its inclusion. In the end, Republicans agreed to form a study commission to look at the issue and make its findings to the legislature by the end of 2022.
Cooper said he believed the good contained in the budget outweighed the bad and he chose to sign it into law, vowing to work on what he called its missed opportunities.
“This budget moves North Carolina forward in important ways,” he said. “Funding for high-speed internet, our universities and community colleges, clean air and drinking water and desperately needed pay increases for teachers and state employees are all critical for our state to emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever.”
The Governor said he “will continue to fight for progress where this budget falls short but believe that, on balance, it is an important step in the right direction.”
The budget is a two-year spending plan that includes the allocation of another $27 billion in funding for the next fiscal year that begins July 1, 2022, although legislators typically tweak the second year of the budget based on revenue projections and funding priorities that arise before the original plan is completed.