New state budget includes millions of dollars in funding for western North Carolina

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Raleigh, North Carolina – The revised state budget unveiled this week includes critical funding for Western North Carolina, increase funding for school safety initiatives and prepare our state for a possible recession.

The House vote was 84-28, and the Senate vote was 38-9. The $27.9 billion spending plan is the largest in state history — $900 million, or 3%, more than lawmakers originally planned to spend in the next fiscal year .

Senator Kevin Corbin said: “I am extremely proud to have worked with my colleagues across the West to fight for funding priorities that improve the quality of life for residents of Western North Carolina. From education to economic development, with Rep. Karl Gillespie and Rep. Mike Clampitt, I was able to secure critical funding that will help build the West.

The budget increases the salaries of most state employees by 3.5%. During the biennium, government employees will receive a 6% increase. The budget increases the salaries of new teachers and, on average, teachers will receive a salary increase of 4.2%. Over the biennium, including bonuses, teachers will receive an average of 14.2% additional remuneration. Uncertified public school employees, such as bus drivers, will receive either a 4% wage increase or a $15/hour raise, whichever is greater.

“Education and school safety were a top priority for all members of the North Carolina General Assembly during this budget session,” Rep. Karl Gillespie said. “I am proud to vote for this budget because of the priority it places on increasing the salaries of our teachers and providing funds directly to districts to make our state’s schools safer.”

To address safety concerns in schools, the budget provides an additional $15 million recurring for the School Resource Officer Grant Program, specifically for elementary and middle schools. It also increases the state’s matching for the School Resource Officer grant program for most school districts to $4 for every $1 of non-state funds. The budget allocates an additional $26 million in at-risk allowance to help school districts meet the average salary for school resource officers.

The budget also provides an additional $32 million for the School Safety Grant Program for student support, school safety training and school safety equipment.

The Center for Safer Schools is required to collect data on existing school safety systems, policies and procedures. He will report this information and any recommendations to improve school safety to the General Assembly.

“I am proud to support a budget that emphasizes the importance of public education to the future of our state,” said Senator Corbin. “Investing in our children today – by supporting those who are dedicated to them in the classroom every day – we are ensuring a bright future for our state tomorrow.

For western North Carolina, the budget includes funds to provide additional positions for assistant district attorneys within the 43rd Prosecution District.

“District Attorney Ashley Welch and her staff are doing an incredible job serving one of, if not THE, largest geographic prosecution district in the entire state of North Carolina,” Senator Corbin said. “His office has an enormous workload that more than justifies funding additional positions and I am happy to have advocated and received funding for this in this budget cycle.”

Water and sewer capital improvements in western North Carolina were a priority for Corbin, Clampitt and Gillespie in this budget, with a total of $1,90,700 guaranteed in the budget for projects in the Cherokee, Clay, Macon and Graham counties. This funding of nearly $2 million will be sent directly to the city responsible for water and sewer for these residents to make the necessary improvements to better serve citizens.

The Town of Bryson City and the Town of Sylva each received grants of $100,000 for capital improvements or equipment.

The budget’s focus on public education continued, with Clay County schools receiving $8,000,000 in North Carolina Lottery funding for a need-based school investment grant as well as $150,000 for athletic facility capital improvements at Bethel Middle School.

The budget also includes $50,000 for the Alarka Community Center in Swain County for capital improvements.

Haywood County will receive $1.5 million in Federal Drug Abuse Block Grant funds for drug addiction treatment and recovery services from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

After devastating flooding in Canton, the state budget allocates $8.3 million from the Department of Public Safety specifically to the city of Canton for various disaster recovery projects to help Haywood County continue its recovery efforts.

Additional budget details are below:

Education

  • Funds an additional $1 billion over the amount in fiscal year 2021-22 for a total of $16.5 billion.
  • Includes $3.9 million to cover co-payments for students who qualify for discounted lunches.
  • Funds 124 additional literacy coaches and early learning specialists to support early literacy efforts.
  • A transfer of $431 million over the biennium from the NC Education Lottery to the Public Schools Capital Construction Fund based on need. Over the next 6 years, $2.6 billion is expected to be spent on school capital.
  • Expands income eligibility for the Opportunity Scholarship Program so that more families have the opportunity to send their child to a school that best matches their educational needs. The new income eligibility level is equal to or less than 200% of the amount required for a free or reduced price lunch.
  • Allocates an additional $56 million in recurring funds to the Opportunity Scholarship Reserve, for a total of $150.8 million that can be awarded to families eligible for the scholarship.
  • Provides an additional recurring $16.3 million to the Student Accounts Program for the Personal Education of Children with Disabilities, to clear the program’s waiting list. Total program funding for fiscal year 2022-23 is $47.9 million.
  • Creates a recurring grant of $250,000 for schools to purchase feminine hygiene products in schools.

Fixed Assets/Infrastructure

  • Delivering $883 million for water supply and sanitation infrastructure projects, bringing the total amount available for these projects in the biennium to $2.5 billion.
  • Providing $300 million to build a new educational complex and the Governor’s Office in downtown Raleigh, as well as renovating and demolishing other downtown government buildings.
  • Includes $250 million for a reserve to help cover cost overruns for state capital projects due to inflation.
  • Provides $120.8 million in additional capital grants to local governments and nonprofit entities.

Other items

  • Redirects 2% of sales tax revenues — approximately $193.1 million — to the Road Fund to support various transportation purposes. This is the first step in dealing with declining transportation revenues to keep up with population growth.
  • Provides an additional $5 million for GREAT Grants to expand broadband access to underserved areas. This brings the amount of GREAT Grants to recurring $20 million. The state expects to receive at least $100 million from the federal Infrastructure Jobs and Broadband Investment Act.
  • Transfers $950 million to the National Emergency Response and Disaster Relief Reserve, of which $215.8 million is allocated to disaster recovery efforts from past events and mitigation efforts to prepare for future floods and natural disasters.
  • Increases reimbursement rates for NC Pre-K providers by 5%. Private child care centres, which were due to receive a 4% rate increase using funds from the 2021 Appropriation Act, will now receive a 9% reimbursement rate increase in the 2022-23 financial year.
  • Allocating $1.8 million from the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) grant to update and maintain voter lists and continue to improve voting technology and security enhancements.
  • Providing $1 million to the North Carolina Economic Development Partnership’s Megasites Readiness Program to identify additional megasites in North Carolina.
  • Allocates $1 million to support Fayetteville State University’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hub.

“This is a responsible budget that meets our current needs and our plans for an uncertain economic future. This budget takes into account the pressure of our federal government’s frantic spending that is stretching the budgets of the people of North Carolina, and the burden of soaring fuel prices and inflation,” Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) said. “It’s imperative that we stay on track and continue the good work we’ve done in North Carolina to strengthen our economy, meet the needs of our citizens, and ensure a bright future for our state.”

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