Construction of a new Rosewood Middle School will get $20 million from the state budget approved in November.

The new school is part of more than $54 million in the budget for programs and projects that will have an impact on Wayne County, House Majority Leader John Bell IV said.

“It was a priority of mine from day one, and that priority has now become reality,” Bell said in a telephone interview.

The existing Rosewood Middle School is one of the oldest school buildings in Wayne County, Bell said. Two governors have visited the school to see the substandard condition of the building, he said.

The budget also includes $2 million for the Independence Fund Inc. for the No Veteran Left Behind project to assist military veterans in crisis. The project addresses mental health issues among veterans.

Wayne County was among counties in the initial legislation that were to be part of a pilot project for the program.

“I was able to have that implemented to a statewide program,” Bell said. “That’s a big win. It helps us address the mental health issues we’re seeing with veterans.”

The No Veteran Left Behind project is “another reason we’re the most military friendly state in the country,” Bell said.

Also approved is a state tax exemption on military retirement benefits. Bell noted that the exemption was a top priority for the North Carolina Military Affairs Commission and the local Military Affairs Committee.

“That is huge,” Bell said of the exemption, adding that it will go a long way toward encouraging retired military personnel to remain in the area. “I’m happy we were able to get that done.”

Bell is a Republican representing District 10, which includes Greene County and portions of Wayne and Johnston counties.

Bell cited other budget items that he and Senate Majority Whip Jim Perry secured for Wayne County and eastern North Carolina, including:

• $7.5 million for the Firefighter Fighting Cancer Act to assist firefighters dealing with work-related cancers.

• $5 million for acquisition of vulnerable property in the Stoney Creek watershed.

• $1.75 million for University of Mount Olive agricultural capital.

• $1 million for the Bentonville Battlefield land acquisition.

• $750,000 to Princeton High School for drainage pipe replacement.

• $750,000 to the Southern Wayne Sanitation District.

• $500,000 to the town of Princeton for a new community center.

• $500,000 for a Wayne County Sheriff’s Office Mobile Command Center.

• $350,000 to American Legion Wayne Post 11 to repair damage from Hurricane Florence and Matthew.

• $275,000 to the N.C. Troopers Association Caisson Unit.

• $250,000 to the Wayne Pregnancy Center for the Cry Freedom Missions to combat human trafficking.

• $230,000 to Wayne County for an innovative court pilot program.

• $200,000 to the Mount Olive Family Medical Center Concussion Clinic.

• $100,000 to the Rosewood Fire Department for capital improvements.

• $50,000 to Vanguard Educational Institute to support the summer youth camp.

• $25,000 to Habitat for Humanity of Goldsboro-Wayne.

• $10,000 to the city of Goldsboro for promotion and preservation of the history of the 135th U.S. Colored Troop.

The budget also includes nearly $1 billion for disaster relief and flood mitigation for areas hard hit by hurricanes and other national disasters. Bell described the package as a “historic and unprecedented investment.”

Bell said the plan mirrors the Disaster Relief and Mitigation Act that he introduced earlier this year.

One item not specifically included in the final budget is a proposed levee for flood mitigation in Seven Springs.

“We felt like in order to do a long-range strategy for the entire state, we need a plan for before doing projects along rivers and streams,” Bell said.

The disaster relief package includes:

• $800 million for the State Emergency Response and Disaster Relief Reserve.

• $412 million for disaster recovery from previous events and mitigation efforts to prepare the state for future flooding and other natural disasters.

• $124 million for Tropical Storm Fred relief.

• $25 million for Golden LEAF that the foundation will use to help local governments plan or pursue resilience projects.

• $20 million to create a Flood Resiliency Blueprint to guide flood mitigation projects.

• $38 million to support flood mitigation in vulnerable areas.

• $32 million in grants to local governments for flood mitigation and disaster recovery projects.

• $40 million to the Coastal Storm Damage Mitigation Fund for grants to local governments for storm damage mitigation projects.

The budget also provides pay raises and bonuses for teachers and state employees as well as investments in education, infrastructure and health care.

Bell described the budget as “the best budget that I’ve been a part of in 10 years.”

Perry, a Republican representing Senate District 7, which encompasses Wayne and Lenoir counties, said the budget is a strong one, “especially for the people of Wayne County and eastern North Carolina.”

“It has been a long process,” Perry said in a news release, “but Rep. Bell and myself worked hard to ensure that the final budget included these critical resources for our region.

“These funds will help support veterans, law enforcement, students, and numerous communities throughout Wayne County.”

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