Saturday, August 13, 2022

114 West Elm Street
Graham, NC 27253
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State budget includes millions for Graham and Mebane wastewater treatment plant upgrades

Mebane to get $11.925M; Graham $10M; $525K for Haw River; $500K for Gibsonville, & $237K for Swepsonville

 

Alamance County appears to make out quite well in North Carolina’s new state budget, which disburses a grand total of $27.9 billion in funds for a wide range of purposes.

The new budget, which received the signature of Governor Roy Cooper on Monday, was hammered out by the General Assembly’s Republican majority before it was passed on to the Democratic chief executive for his endorsement. The budget’s passage has consequently been viewed as a triumph by the legislature’s Republicans, including Amy Scott Galey, who represents Alamance County and a portion of Guilford in North Carolina’s state senate.

“This budget continues our state’s extraordinary investment in education with pay increases for teachers and other public school employees. In addition, there are more funds for the School Resource Officer grant program and other school safety initiatives.

“I am also proud of the funds that will directly help our community…”

– State senator Amy Scott Galey

Earlier this month, Galey issued a news release to tout the final version of the spending plan which the legislature’s GOP leadership presented to General Assembly for its approval.

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According to Galey, this budget would provide much-needed funds for a number of state and local priorities – many of which are education-related.

“This budget continues our state’s extraordinary investment in education with pay increases for teachers and other public school employees,” the state senator noted on July 1. “In addition, there are more funds for the School Resource Officer grant program and other school safety initiatives.

“I am also proud of the funds that will directly help our community,” she added, “including water and sewer projects as well as funds for a new track at Cummings High School and stadium improvements for Eastern High School.”

Galey goes on to enumerate some of the local allocations that appear in the state’s spending plan. Many of the more substantial outlays are earmarked for water and sewer upgrades – with Mebane and Graham slated to receive $11,925,000 and $10 million, respectively. The budget also sets aside $525,000 for these same two utilities in the town of Haw River, $500,000 in Gibsonville, and $237,000 in Swepsonville.

Other noteworthy outlays include $1 million in capital improvements for Gibsonville’s police department, $688,000 to renovate the track at Cummings High School, and $250,000 for stadium upgrades at Eastern High School. The budget also includes $25,000 to help the local school system prevent human trafficking and $50,000 for equipment and upgrades in the town of Ossipee.

The budget, as adopted, also contains outlays for several local businesses and nonprofit organizations. These allocations include $500,000 for renovations at the local YMCA’s Camp Frontier, $25,000 for Family Abuse Services of Alamance County, and $50,000, each, for the Open Door Clinic of Alamance, Residential Treatment Services of Alamance, and ACE Speedway Racing in Altamahaw.

Galey wasn’t alone in promoting the various line items that the state budget allots to recipients in Alamance County. Most of these same allocations were also backed by state representative Dennis Riddell, a Republican whose district in the state house comprises the southern and western portions of Alamance County.

In an interview with The Alamance News on Wednesday, Riddell acknowledged that he and Galey had forged through the budget process together to make sure their constituents in Alamance County would receive the full benefit of North Carolina’s new spending plan.

“Amy and I worked together on several of the projects,” he said before extending some of the credit for the outlay to Gibsonville’s police department to fellow Republican state representative Jon Hardister of Guilford

Riddell went on to concede that most, if not all, of the aforementioned local appropriations are actually bankrolled by the American Rescue Plan, which a Democratically-controlled Congress approved in 2021 to ease the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Riddell nevertheless insisted that he and Galey are still entitled to their share of the credit for these allocations since they helped to determine how these federal funds would be doled out by the state.

“I was looking for projects that will continue to have benefits over time,” the state representative explained, “because the people who will be paying back this borrowed money are the same people who will be paying [federal] taxes over the next 15 to 20 years.”

Riddell added that he doesn’t have any qualms about distributing some of this money to private nonprofits and even for-profit entities such as ACE Speedway. In ACE’s case, Riddell recalled that the budget’s $50,000 grant effectively makes up for the racetrack’s omission from another pot of funds which had been set aside explicitly for speedways across North Carolina. Nor did Riddell object to using a portion of these federal pandemic relief funds to shore up some local nonprofit groups.

“If we lived in a time where we did not shut down businesses and shut down nonprofits for the length of time that we did, I would disagree,” he said. “We forced everybody into a cocoon for two years [through North Carolina’s pandemic-inducted state of emergency], and the obligation to help these companies and nonprofits, I think, falls to the state.”

Riddell nevertheless said that, for his money, the biggest boon in the state budget for his constituents isn’t an allocation but a reduction in the state’s income tax rate from 5.25 to 4.99 percent.

“[Tax cuts from 5.25 to 4.99 percent are] a stepping down of the income tax that we started in 2013. We did it with the cautionary backstop that, if we ended up enough funds, we would reduce the tax rate even more.”

– State rep. Dennis Riddell

The Snow Camp Republican noted that this decrease is merely the latest in a series of income tax cuts that have occurred in the decade since the GOP wrested control of the General Assembly away from the Democrats.

“This is a stepping down of the income tax that we started in 2013,” he went on to elaborate. “We did it with the cautionary backstop that, if we ended up enough funds, we would reduce the tax rate even more.”

Riddell added that, if everything continues along this trajectory, the state’s income tax rate should reach a new low of 3.99 percent by 2026.

Riddell also alluded to a new employee that the state budget allocates to Alamance County’s clerk of superior court. The state representative said that, even with this additional staff member, the clerk’s office will still be some five employees short of the staffing it needs, according to the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts.

In her statement about the state budget, Galey also alludes to additional funds for state staff members – including pay raises for those it already employs.

“The budget increases most state employee salaries by 3.5 percent,” the state senator notes. “The budget increases the salary for entry-level teachers, and on average, teachers will receive a 4.2 percent pay raise…Noncertified public school employees, like bus drivers, will receive either a 4 percent pay raise or an increase to $15 [an] hour, whichever is greater.”

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