Commissioners short schools on budget request

By Bob Shiles -

Ricky Harris

Tom Taylor

LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Board of Commissioners on Monday made minor changes to special appropriations in a budget proposed by County Manager Ricky Harris, but left it to him to make changes in department budgets.

The commissioners gave the Public Schools of Robeson County an additional $600,000 over the current year, but that was far short of what was requested.

Harris is recommending a budget of just more than $149 million, down from the current fiscal year’s budget of about $153.2 million. The commissioners have told Harris not to include an increase in the tax rate, which at 77 cents for every $100 of property is the 25th highest in the state.

“This is a tight budget,” said Tom Taylor, board chairman. “But I’m pretty much satisfied with it. It’s a good budget.”

Harris and Finance Director Kellie Blue were instructed by commissioners to move ahead and finalize the budget. Plans are for the budget to be reviewed one more time during a work session after the board’s June 5 meeting. A public hearing and final vote on the budget is scheduled for June 19, Harris said.

Harris last week floated the idea of bumping the tax rate, from 77 cents to 79 cents for each $100 of property value, which would raise an additional $1 million.

According to Harris, the biggest budgetary problem is the skyrocketing cost for health insurance. He said in his budget message last week that $3.5 million needs to be found to cover the cost of health insurance.

“I’m still working on it,” Harris told The Robesonian.

Special appropriations for the coming fiscal year are the same level of as the current year, except for the Robeson County Public Schools, Robeson Community College and the Robeson County Public Library.

Robeson Community College is receiving an additional $200,000, up from $100,000 to $300,000; the county library is getting an extra $10,000, up from $470,000 to $480,000; and the school district is getting an extra $600,000, well below the additional $3.4 million the school system sought.

“The schools will not be paying the county anything during the next year for water or solid waste disposal,” Harris said. “We estimate water and solid waste disposal will cost the county about $600,000.”

Commissioner Jerry Stephens objected with Harris’ recommendation not to put anything in the upcoming budget for Colors of Life, an organization that addresses gang-related issues. Stephens told the board that he wanted to give Colors of Life $2,500, the same amount that he says Lumberton City Council will provide in its new budget. The City Council has not yet adopted a budget.

The county commissioners agreed, and asked that Harris include $2,500 for Colors of Life.

Ricky Harris Harris

Tom Taylor Taylor

By Bob Shiles

Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.

Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.

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