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New State Budget includes millions in funding for Western North Carolina

Raleigh, N.C. – The revised state budget unveiled this week includes critical funding for  Western North Carolina, increases funding for school safety initiatives, and prepares our state to weather a potential 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 upcoming fiscal year.

Sen. Kevin Corbin said, “I am extremely proud to have worked with my colleagues in the West to fight for funding priorities that enhance the quality of life for residents in the Western North Carolina. From education o economic development, I, along with Rep. Karl Gillespie, Rep. Mike Clampitt, were able to secure critical funding that will help strengthen the West.”

The budget increases most state employee salaries by 3.5%. Over the biennium state employees will receive a 6% raise. The budget increases the salary for entry-level teachers, and on average teachers will receive a 4.2% pay raise. Over the biennium, including bonuses, teachers will receive an average 14.2% additional compensation. Noncertified public school employees, like bus drivers, will receive either a 4% pay raise or an increase to $15/hour, whichever is greater.

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

To address school safety concerns the budget provides an additional recurring $15 million for the School Resource Officer Grant program, specifically for elementary and middle schools. It also increases the state match for the School Resource Officer Grant program for most school districts to $4 per every $1 in non-state funds. The budget allocates $26 million more to the At-Risk allotment to help school districts meet the average salary of school resource officers. 

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

The Center for Safer Schools is required to gather data on existing school safety systems, policies, and procedures. It will report that information and any recommendations for improving school safety to the General Assembly.

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

For Western North Carolina, the budget includes funding to provide additional positions for Assistant District Attorneys within the 43rd prosecutorial district. 

“District Attorney Ashley Welch and her staff do an incredible job serving one of, if not THE, largest geographical prosecutorial district in the entire state of North Carolina,” said Sen. Corbin. “Her office has a tremendous workload that more than justifies funding for additional positions and I am happy to have advocated for and received funding for that in this budget cycle.”

Capital improvements to water and sewer across Western North Carolina was a focus for Corbin, Clampitt, and Gillespie in this budget with a total of $1,90700 being secured in the budget for projects in Cherokee, Clay, Macon, and Graham counties. That nearly $2 million in funding will be sent directly to the town in charge of water and sewer for those residents to complete the needed upgrades to best serve citizens. 

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

The budget’s focus on public education continued with Clay County Schools being awarded $8,000,000 in North Carolina Lottery Funding for a needs-based school Capital Grant as well as$150,000 for capital improvements to the athletic facilities 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 Substance Abuse Block Grant funds for substance use treatment and recovery services from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. 

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

Additional details about the budget are below: 

Education

  • Funds an additional $1 billion over the FY 2021-22 amount for a total of $16.5 billion.
  • Includes $3.9 million to cover the copays for students that qualify for reduced-price lunches.
  • Funds an additional 124 literacy coaches and early learning specialists to aid in early literacy efforts.
  • A $431 million transfer over the biennium from the N.C. Education Lottery to the Needs-Based Public School Capital Building Fund. Over the course of the next 6 years, a projected $2.6 billion will be spent on school capital.
  • Expands the income eligibility for the Opportunity Scholarship Program so more families have the chance to send their child to a school that best fits his or her educational needs. The new income eligibility level is equal to or less than 200% of the amount required for free or reduced-price lunch.
  • Allocates an additional $56 million in recurring funds to the Opportunity Scholarship Grant reserve, for a total of $150.8 million that can be awarded to families that qualify for the scholarship.
  • Provides an additional recurring $16.3 million to the Personal Education Student Accounts for Children with Disabilities Program, to clear the program’s waitlist. The program’s total funding in FY 2022-23 is $47.9 million.
  • Creates a recurring $250,000 grant for schools to purchase feminine hygiene products in schools.

Capital/Infrastructure

  • Provides $883 million for water and wastewater infrastructure projects, bringing the total amount available those projects over the biennium to $2.5 billion.
  • Provides $300 million to build a new Education Complex and Governor’s Office in downtown Raleigh, and to renovate and demolish other downtown government buildings.
  • Includes $250 million for a reserve to help defray cost overruns for state capital projects due to inflation.
  • Provides $120.8 million in additional capital grants to local governments and non-profit entities.

Other Items

  • Redirects 2% of sales tax revenue — approximately $193.1 million — to the Highway Fund to support a variety of transportation purposes. This is the first step to address declining transportation revenues to keep up with population growth.
  • Provides an additional $5 million for the GREAT Grants to expand broadband access in underserved areas. This increases the amount for GREAT Grants to $20 million recurring. The state expects to receive at least $100 million from the federal Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act for broadband.
  • Transfers $950 million to the State Emergency Response and Disaster Relief Reserve, with $215.8 million of that allocated for disaster recovery efforts from previous events and mitigation efforts to prepare for future flooding and natural disasters.
  • Increases the NC Pre-K provider reimbursement rates by 5%. Private child care facilities, which were slated to receive a 4% rate increase with funds from the 2021 Appropriations Act, will now receive a 9% reimbursement rate increase in FY 2022-23.
  • Appropriates $1.8 million from the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) grant to update and maintain voter lists and to continue enhancing election technology and security improvements.
  • Provides $1 million to the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina’s Megasite Readiness Program, with the intent to identify additional megasites in North Carolina.
  • Allocates $1 million to support the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hub at Fayetteville State University.

“This is a responsible budget that responds to our current needs and plans for an uncertain economic future. This budget takes into account the strain of runaway spending from our federal government that is stretching North Carolinians’ budgets thin, and the burden of skyrocketing 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 secure a bright future for our state.”

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