ActivePaper Archive Commissioners adopt budget - Burlington Times News, 6/19/2019

Commissioners adopt budget

GRAHAM — There hadn’t been much vocal resistance to the county manager’s recommended 2019–20 budget with an 8-cent tax increase and 67-cent tax rate until Monday, June 17, and it wasn’t enough to derail it.

“I didn’t see much effort this whole year, this whole budget process, to be conservative,” Commissioner Tim Sutton said. “I said I would support 66 cents, not 67.”

After some discussion and some amendments, the county commissioners voted 3–2 to adopt the $208 million budget with a nearly $172 million general fund — the part that funds most day-to-day operations — with Sutton and Bill Lashley voting “no.”

During a break after the vote, several people, including former Commissioner Bob Byrd, went to shake Commissioner Steve Carter’s hand. Carter, while a vocal fiscal conservative, supported County Manager Bryan Hagood’s budget and closely related seven-year capital plan — which the commissioners also adopted Monday, but by a unanimous vote.

Most of the tax increase, 7.04 cents, Hagood said, is to cover the cost of financing $189.6 million in education bonds voters approved Nov.

6. The other 0.96 cents is for the capital plan to repair, renovate and expand county buildings, including the county courthouses.

Sutton said the county had to pay down the bonds and needed a new high school, but, he said, he supported “about everything” in the budget and capital plan, though “not everything,” and didn’t think there had been any effort by the “main drivers” to restrain spending.

Growth in the county’s tax base, the value of all the taxable property, means the county is bringing in more money with each penny on the tax rate, so the “revenue neutral” tax rate, Sutton said, would be 56.64 cents.

The current tax rate is 59 cents.

So, Sutton said, the effective tax increase is really more than 10 cents.

If, Hagood said, the budget didn’t include the tax increase for the bonds and capital plan, he would still have to cut about $3.5 million from the budget to make a revenueneutral 56.64 tax rate cover county government expenses.

Carter, saying he’d gone over nearly every line item in the budget with Hagood, asked Sutton where he would cut the $1.4 million difference between a 67-cent and a 66-cent tax rate.

“Don’t you think I’ve agonized over this?” Carter asked.

Lashley said it could be done easily, starting with cutting travel costs for county employees going to trainings or conferences.

“You ran as a conservative,” Lashley said to Carter. “Vote like one.”

Bus driver


Board Chair Amy Galey brought another issue into the budget discussion: punishing striking bus drivers by cutting the school budget.

The Alamance-Burlington School System had not planned to close schools May 1 so teachers and other employees could attend the N.C. Association of Educators’ rally in Raleigh, but had to change plans and close schools late in the day April 30 when more than a dozen bus drivers called out. The last-minute change was not popular with parents, including Galey.

“The school bus drivers forced the administration’s hand,” Galey said. “By collective labor action they shut down the school district for a day.

“That’s a strike.”

Galey said that was disrespectful to the administration, taxpayers and parents, and the commissioners should consider a consequence. Her idea was to “support the superintendent and the school board” by cutting their budget by one-half percent, which would be less than $250,000, Galey said, which could go into the next year’s budget if there were no other strikes.

Obviously, she said, it wouldn’t affect the bus drivers directly.

“We don’t have a scalpel in this situation,” Galey said, “just a sledgehammer.”

It wasn’t, however, a hammer Galey was willing to swing this year. She didn’t make a motion to change the budget and said she wouldn’t vote for such a cut this time. Carter and Lashley said they would have supported her if she had.

“Those bus drivers should be fired,” Lashley said.

Also Monday

The commissioners voted 5–0 to adopt a resolution on the state permit of a controversial proposed quarry in Snow Camp, but not one asking the state Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources of the Department of Environmental Quality to deny the permit application from Alamance Aggregates.

County Attorney Clyde Albright said a bill making its way through the state Senate could open the county up to lawsuits if they did since the county already gave the mine a permit.

“This is a vested right, like it or not, they’ve got their permit,” Albright said. “It is very risky to have a statement saying we want to deny a permit.”

Several who have been advocating against the mine weren’t satisfied with Albright’s language and made their own changes to Albright’s draft — like one explicitly saying all 6,000 Snow Camp residents rely on groundwater — some of which the commissioners asked Albright to include, but the line about the commissioners “not advocating that any permit be denied” stayed in.

Reporter Isaac Groves

can be reached at

igroves@thetimesnews. com or 336-506-3045.

Follow him on Twitter at @tnigroves.