Wake commissioners exchange words

June 8, 2009 12:07:42 PM PDT
The Wake County Commissioners budget workshop saw its share of fireworks Monday morning with commissioners interrupting each other, tempers rising and one member saying he is embarrassed to be part of the Board. It all centers around a motion introduced by Commissioner Stan Norwalk that asks County Manager David Cooke to put about $28 million back into a budget proposal that had called for $31 million in cuts over the previous year's budget.

Norwalk's amendment calls for $5.6 million to be added to the Department of Human Services, $2.7 million to Wake County Schools, $212,000 to keep Athens Drive Library open and a $20 million reserve fund to be set aside to cope with whatever negative effects on the county come when the state passes its bare-bones budget.

The commissioner's one-and-a-half page amendment included just one bold-faced line: "These funds are to be generated without a tax increase."

Motion by Stan Norwalk to Adjust the Proposed 2010 Budget:

  • $5.6 million to be added to the Human Services budget to match last year's spending level despite a rapidly-growing demand for services
  • $2.7 million to be added to the budget for WCPSS for classroom education, matching the highly restrained request from the Board of Education and not taking into account either growth or inflation
  • $212,000 to be added to the Community Services Budget to keep Athens Drive Library open
  • Establish a temporary reserve of $20 million deal with the uncertainties of reduced funding and increased responsibilities that the State Legislature may impose on the County in determining their budget. Decisions on how to reallocate this reserve shall be made no later than six weeks after the State issues their 2010 budget.

But the only way commissioners could find $28 million without raising taxes would be to stop a number of building projects that have already been committed to. Those projects include schools, jails and construction at Wake Tech.

"I'm frankly appalled Mr. Chairman you would even allow this," Commissioner Joe Bryan said.

Commissioner Paul Coble agreed saying, ""This is an absolute waste of time. And we are not getting to the work we really need to be doing. All we're doing is playing to the cameras."

Norwalk's motion passed 4-3, with democrats Betty Lou Ward, Harold Webb, Lindy Brown and Norwalk voting for it. Republicans Tony Gurley, Paul Coble and Joe Bryan opposed it.

"I'm pretty angry about this because it's a hidden tax increase," Bryan argued. "It's smoke and mirrors."

Gurley called the amendment "ludicrous" and said he is "embarrassed" to be on the board. He called the amendment a "lie" and a "scam."

But after hours of debate, the commissioners over-ruled their own vote and will not seek to replace the 28 million after all.

So its back to the budget drawing board when commissioners plan to meet again in a week.


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