County officials concerned about plan to shift expenses
By Steve Herring
Published in News on February 23, 2011 1:46 PM
Already embattled county budgets would suffer more hits should the General Assembly adopt a budget proposal that shifts millions of dollars in school funding costs to the counties.
Under the proposal counties would foot the bill for replacement school buses, estimated at $56.9 million statewide; be mandated to pay workers' compensation costs for state-paid public school employees, about $34.6 million statewide, and community college employees, estimated at $1.7 million statewide; and be pressured to fund state-funded school positions in administration, academic support and other non-instructional support areas -- positions that would be reduced by the proposal.
Counties also could see more of their state lottery proceeds absorbed into balancing the state budget.
By law, 40 percent of lottery proceeds are designated for school capital needs. However, the proposed budget would use most of that lottery money for state education expenses. It also would eliminate the counties' share of the corporate income tax dedicated to the Public School Building Capital Fund.
Other costs that would become counties' financial responsibility include social services administrative costs, about $5.4 million statewide.
The proposal also reduces state aid to public health departments by $6.8 million.
According to the North Carolina Association of County Commission-ers, state legislation since 2009 has cost counties $640 million.
More than $260 million in school capital funds were lost in the current budget, and more than $375 million would be lost in the new budget proposal, according to the association.
The following year-by-year look at the revenue losses to counties was provided by the association:
* 2009-10 - state took ADM funds from counties ($100 million loss to counties)
* 2010-11 - state took ADM funds from counties ($100 million loss to counties) and reduced lottery appropriation from $176 million to $113 million ($63 million loss to counties)
* 2011-12 - state ends ADM fund transfer from corporate income tax ($72 million loss to counties) and reduces lottery share to $45 million ($115 million loss to counties)
* 2012-13 - state would end ADM fund transfer from corporate income tax ($75 million loss to counties) and reduce lottery share to $45 million ($115 million loss to counties).
Also of interest to counties is Senate Bill 8 that would eliminate the cap on charter schools and that holds potential of another financial mandate for counties, association officials said.
Currently, counties do not have the authority to provide capital funding to charter schools.
An earlier version of the bill would have required counties to transfer funding directly to charter schools. Wording in a proposed new version t would allow counties to appropriate funds for capital needs to charter schools -- and authority counties have not sought, association officials said.