By Richard Sullins | firstname.lastname@example.org
Lee County Manager Dr. John Crumpton will unveil to the Board of Commissioners his budget proposal for fiscal year 2022-23 on Monday, and it is expected to include a recommendation to cut the property tax rate three and a half cents per $100 of property valuation effective July 1. But teachers who were hoping for an increase in their local supplements from the county this year will likely be disappointed again.
At their strategic planning meeting in January, the commissioners were unanimous in their desire to have a tax cut for the second year in a row, made possible by the economic growth of the county since a spate of new industries began locating here in 2019.
The proposal in the budget plan calls for reducing the property tax rate from the current 76 cents to 72.5 cents per $100 in property valuation. Last year, the commissioners reduced the rate from 77.5 cents to an even 76 cents.
There had been talk in some political circles for a tax cut as big as five cents, but the commissioners seem to have opted for a slightly smaller one that gave them room to increase appropriations to a few departments they consider to be high priority items for the coming year.
The big winner this year appears to be Central Carolina Community College, with a total increase in its budget of $1,243,205. That amount includes a special appropriation of $920,000 to get the Moore Center up and running for training that is needed by car manufacturer VinFast next summer, as well as another $323,205 in current expense funds to pay for increased salary costs for locally paid employees.
Both the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and the Sanford Area Growth Alliance will receive appropriations smaller than what they had requested.
The sheriff’s office would receive an increase of $901,879 if the draft budget is approved. Still, the increase is far short of the $7 million total that interim Sheriff Brian Estes had requested, and he will face tough choices in what will be funded this year. Estes had requested four additional deputies, a sergeant devoted to narcotics investigations, 14 AR-15 style rifles, and 14 new Dodge Durangos.
SAGA also saw a reduction from their budget request of $355,163, plus an additional $42,500 for a website redesign. The proposed budget recommends fully funding the website project but reduces overall funding for SAGA slightly to $339,020. SAGA, a public-private partnership that’s served as the local economic development operation for several years, has been incredibly successful recently in recruiting new industries to locate and/or expand locally.
And for the second year in a row, there will be no money in the budget to fund the $1.6 million requested by Lee County Schools for local supplements for teachers and classified staff. During previous commission meetings this year and budget workshops held through the spring, this issue continued to be a partisan affair, with the four Republicans opposing the funding of local supplements through county dollars and the three Democrats standing in support of providing those supplement increases.
Last year, the county awarded Lee County Schools $378,246 to their current expense fund to use for whatever purposes it saw fit. Commissioners are doing the same this year, although by a smaller amount of $320,000.
The total amount of the county’s budget for fiscal year 2022-23 is $90,838,408, an increase of more than $6 million over last year’s spending and revenue plan. Monday’s meeting of the commissioners will take place at 6 p.m. at the McSwain Center on Tramway Road.