$23M in CCCC bonds bound for ballot

May. 24, 2014 @ 05:02 AM

The Lee County Board of Commissioners approved a referendum concerning $23 million in bonds for Central Carolina Community College at its Thursday night meeting.

The college is asking for the bonds to construct a new health science building and  expand and renovate the veterinary medical technology facility, the emergency services training center and the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center.

The board approved the referendum with four separate items — $9 million for the health science building, $5 million for the veterinary facility, $4 million for the emergency services facility and $5 million for the civic center — over a previous proposal that combined the health science, veterinary and emergency services facilities into one item on the referendum.

The measure will go to voters in the November general election.

“With this new one,” said county Finance Director Lisa Minter, “you could not move funds between projects. There is no flexibility to move money.”

Commissioner Jim Womack urged caution when allocating money, saying that making each project a separate item would ensure precision with funding.

“When we take on debt,” he said, “we better be prudent and fiscally confident when we go with that contract. What we really need to do is be more responsible with the money we are allocating to the project.”

Commissioners Robert Reives and Amy Dalrymple opposed splitting the items, saying that flexibility to move money around is important in construction projects, where there is always some level of uncertainty.

“We’re trying to do our due diligence and say we are breaking it up into two parts,” Minter said. “And if we run a little over on this part, we can shift a little money over to cover.”

Vice Chairman Kirk Smith stressed that separating the projects gave voters more freedom.

“If you put it all in one big bundle and it goes down in flames with voters, you have nothing,” he said. “If you prioritize, and they pick and choose, then we get something.”

Reives maintained that splitting the projects stole flexibility from the commissioners and would hinder them from dealing with any problems that might arise in the future.

The board passed the referendum with four items in a vote of 4-3. Chairman Charlie Parks and Commissioners Andre Knecht, Womack and Smith voted for, with Commissioners Ricky Frazier, Reives and Dalrymple voting against.

After a brief recess, the board reconvened to hear County Manager John Crumpton present the proposed county budget for the fiscal year 2014-2015.

The proposed budget total was $65.12 million. The budget for the fiscal year 2013 to 2014 was  $63.54 million.

Crumpton summarized by saying, “[Lee County] has a lot of growing needs, but we don’t have the revenue growth to address them.”

He said most departments, apart from education, the sheriff’s office, animal control and the Department of Social Services, have seen little to no budget increase for the past six years.

“The only thing they really had to offer me [to cut] were positions and programs,” Crumpton said. “If we lose people, we’re going to lose services. I chose to cut capital.”

Crumpton proposed to forgo a cost-of-living adjustment for employees and reduce the number of vehicles for the sheriff’s department instead.

Other major items in the proposed budget included funding for Lee County Schools and Central Carolina Community College.

The Lee County Board of Education asked for a total of $21.71 million for the year, and Crumpton proposed $17.59 million, an increase of $700,000 from last year. He said that would come out to about $1,500 in funding per student.

Crumpton said CCCC asked for $16,450 less than than last year, and he recommended fully funding its request for $2.54 million.

During the meeting, the board also:

* held a public hearing for an economic development cash incentive grant for GKN Driveline.

* approved the appointment of Christine Hilliard and Pam Glover to the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council.

* approved a write-off of 10-year-delinquent property taxes.

* Heard a budget funding request from the Sandhills Center.

* approved a letter of support and verification of land availability for a proposed dog park at O.T. Sloan Park for the “Bark for Your Park” campaign.