Local News

Budget Shortfall Could Hit Schools, Safety Hard

Posted Updated

FAYETTEVILLE — Cumberland County has a tough decision to make: job cuts or tax hike. The county is looking at a $12.5 million budget shortfall. If commissioners can't find the money, hundreds of teachers and law enforcement officers could lose their jobs.

County commissioners are meeting this weekend to figure out what and where to cut. They've said before they will not raise property taxes again this year, and that could mean the loss of more than 600 county jobs.

Schools would be especially hard hit by the proposed cuts, with as many as 300 employees losing their jobs. Social Services may have to eliminate over 100 positions. And most department heads have said they have nothing to cut.

"To say we can't cut is to say we can't spare one single pencil. We can't spare one single part-time position. We can't do anything to protect the interests of the taxpayers who make it possible for us to be here," says County Commissioner Mac Tyson.

But school leaders say county homeowners would rather have a property tax increase then allow education to suffer.

"To lose any amount of teachers in a year where we're expected to grow four or five hundred more students and open a new school is simply unacceptable," says school board chairman Rick Glazier.

The proposed cuts would also mean library branches may be closed, and hours cut. And sheriff's deputies may lose their jobs.

"When you talk in terms of 81 people cut in the sheriff's office, it would certainly have to limit your patrols. And if you only run a patrol 12 hours of 24 you're certainly putting people's lives in danger," Sheriff Moose Butler says.

There is one hope left. If state legislators approve the one cent local option sales tax, that would provide the county with $15 million. School and county leaders plan to make a trip to Raleigh soon to lobby legislators to approve the tax.