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Balancing budget puts commissioners on edge

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- County staff proposed cuts and a 1.6-cent property tax increase to balance the budget. But commissioners asked them to come back with a new budget with a property tax increase of only 1.3-cents. That 0.3 cent difference equals about a million more dollars in cuts.

"The compromise was 1.3 pennies per one hundred dollars worth of value," said commissioner Jonathan Barfield. "It's not going to get us where we need to be, but it's definitely going to be a step in the right direction."

As it stands right now, the budget would reduce the number of furlough days for county employees from ten to three for the year. Airlie Gardens would be saved. But the budget won't give county schools the additional $1.8 million they asked for. That means schools will have to layoff more than 100 employees. Health insurance costs for county employees would also increase, and there would be no money to fund art programs, including the Cucalorus Film Festival.

Commissioners Jason Thompson, Bobby Greer and Jonathan Barfield supported the property tax increase. Ted Davis and Bill Caster opposed it.

"There are still things out there that I believe that we could look at as far as additional cuts," Davis said. "And also, there's an unknown factor of revenue that's going to be coming in because of changes that are going to be made as far as our solid waste."

The county could get up to $5 million from the new solid waste management plan, but it doesn't have that money yet. Commissioners also discussed borrowing from the fund balance, which is basically the county's savings account, but doing that could hurt the bond rating and cost more money in interest for projects in the long run.

County staff must now create a new budget with the additional $1 million in cuts.

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