Local News

Cumberland County Raises Taxes to Pay For Schools, Safety

Posted Updated

FAYETTEVILLE — Cumberland County commissioners voted Monday night to enact a six-cent tax increase that will help pay for education and public safety.

Larry Lancaster is aCumberland County Schoolsveteran. He has been part of the system for more than 30 years. He is grateful to hear that schools like Max Abbott Middle will receive $6 million in funding next year.

"I feel $3 million better off at this time than I did yesterday evening at this time, " says Lancaster, school board chairman.

Still, Lancaster says schools will have to cut corners to make up for the $5 million they did not receive.

"We're going to have to look at things like Exceptional Children's budgets," he says. "We're going to have to look -- unbelievably -- at paying for gas for our buses."

Commissioners know the situation will be difficult; they say agreeing on a budget was difficult too.

"It's been -- as I said at the outset -- the most difficult budget situation that we've ever confronted," says county manager Cliff Strassenberg. "I'm glad that it's over."

But Rick Richards says the fight is just beginning. "I think we're the highest, if not one of the highest, taxed communities in the state," Richards says.

Richards says raising taxes is "downright criminal."

"They're going up to the point where some people, even if you're well off financially, they're going to lose their homes," Richards says.

In spite of the increase, Strassenberg says the county is still struggling.

"Even with this six-cent tax increase, the county will be facing a substantial deficit next year [at] this time," he says.

Commissioners say they will look at their contingency budget this summer to determine whether there is enough money to keep all of the county's library branches open.

The commissioners also decided to spend $20,000 to keep the buses running to Hope Mills for another 30 days, while the permanent fate of the FAST line is decided.

And, it could be a few months before Fayetteville has a new mayor. City leaders say it will be some time before they decidehow to replace J.L. Dawkins, who died last month.