09/05/05 — Officials take guarded approach to lottery

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Officials take guarded approach to lottery

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 5, 2005 1:46 PM

Many had speculated that a lottery would never pass in North Carolina.

When it finally did last week in the Senate, it was by a tie-breaking vote by Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue. The Senate's presiding officer got the chance after the group deadlocked at 24-24.

Gov. Mike Easley, who had championed the lottery since his election in 2001, signed legislation that officials expect will raise an estimated $400 million annually for public school construction, college scholarships and the governor's class-size reduction and preschool programs.

Opinions about having a lottery system have been divided. Polls have shown that most of the state's residents favored it, many already playing lotteries in surrounding states.

While it has been touted as an answer to support education and its programs, some have been skeptical.

Several local officials, contacted after the lottery passage was announced, took a guarded but optimistic approach to the news.

Lehman Smith, chairman of the Board of Education, said if citizens can look at it as an alternative to property taxes continuing to rise, most will likely be more supportive.

His concern is that the money raised by lottery tickets be used the way everybody has been lead to believe.

"I just hope that the money from the lottery isn't used to replace the facilities money" the school system needs, he said.

J.D. Evans, chairman of the Wayne County commissioners, agreed that funds from a lottery system should not be considered a replacement for what is already allocated for schools.

"Before anything of that nature takes place, I would hope that it would be studied," he said. "We don't want to do anything that's going to keep our schools from making the necessary progress they need to make."

Evans said it will be important to define a proper use for the revenues generated from a lottery. If citizens have a choice of what to do with their hard-earned money, and the lottery gives that opportunity, it is more likely to be accepted, he said.

"If the lottery can do this, then by all means, why not," he said.

Dr. Steven Taylor, superintendent of Wayne County Public Schools, called the lottery a unique way to generate additional funding for school systems.

"Understanding the current needs of public schools in North Carolina, any additional dollars received are welcomed and can be effectively utilized," he said.

"It's hoped that funding from the lottery will not replace current state funding for schools and will provide additional resources to meet facility needs and curriculum mandates."