Wake budget proposal could spare some

WAKE COUNTY Even with a tough budget gap, Wake County is proposing to keep school funding flat and to keep libraries open at regular hours.

Wake's County manager also does not propose any cuts to schools.

Wake County is still making almost $12 million in cuts, felt in almost all departments, as the recession has cut revenues. About 25 people could lose their jobs.

"The most perplexing is the sales tax," Wake County Manager David Cook said. "We can read some good news nationally about retail sales going up. But frankly, we haven't seen it here."

There were proposals to layoff dozens of sheriff deputies, and there is always a question of cutting money for schools.

Wake County also flirted with closing Garner's library.

"I've said the squeaky wheel gets grease first," Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams said. "And in this case, there were a lot of squeaky wheels. Garner responded and this is the biggest issue in my 25 years of public service."

Cook says public safety is a strong priority, but he does propose taking one ambulance of the road for 12 hours a day. He says he does not think EMS response times will suffer.

Cook also revealed new funding on Monday to fill the budget hole. The Wake County ABC Board has announced it will donate $3 million and maybe $4 million above their normal contribution of about $5 million a year.

The big gift comes as the North Carolina ABC boards, in which the state and counties control the sale of hard alcohol, have come under fire in the last year for high salaries and lavish parties.

The criticism did not involve Wake's board and a board official says there is no relation.

County officials simply say if not for the last minute money, they would be making more painful cuts.

"I think that reflects their financial strength in these hard financial times," Cook said. "Without that, we'd have to cut another $3 million."

The proposed budget for Wake County next year is a total of about $950 million. It would have the county on a second straight of shrinking budgets.

Commissioners will hold two public hearings in June and then vote on a budget at the end of next month.

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