Local Politics

Libraries spared as Wake commissioners OK budget

Posted June 15, 2009 5:59 p.m. EDT
Updated June 16, 2009 9:49 a.m. EDT

— Wake County commissioners on Monday narrowly approved a $953.6 million budget that keeps two libraries open but slashes funding for education and human services programs to avoid raising property taxes.

Democratic Commissioner Lindy Brown joined Republicans Joe Bryan, Paul Coble and Tony Gurley in voting for the budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year, which starts in two weeks. Democrats Betty Lou Ward, Stan Norwalk and Harold Webb voted against it.

For the second time in a week, Norwalk tried to restore some cuts to education and human services programs. Delaying various construction projects could have saved the county $8.9 million, which then could have been redirected to public schools and service agencies, he said.

"We cannot afford to seriously weaken the network of services that makes Wake a great place to live and work," Norwalk said.

County Manager David Cooke said Norwalk's proposal wasn't feasible and would have eventually required a tax increase, something most commissioners said they wouldn't tolerate during an economic downturn.

"You can call it anything you want to, but it's a future tax increase," Bryan said. "You can't take one-time money and solve long-term issues."

Gurley called the effort "ludicrous," but it did prompt a compromise to cut county funding to the African-American festival and $500,000 in one-time capital expenses. The cuts allowed the county to fund operations for the next year at the Duraleigh and Athens Drive library branches, which had been targeted for closure.

The final budget maintains the county property tax rate at 53.4 cents per $100 valuation. Twenty-two county workers will be laid off, and another 100 vacant jobs will be eliminated.

The Wake County school system will receive $313.5 million under the budget, less than the $316 million the district requested. School officials have said tight funding could lead to fewer teachers and larger classes.