The North Carolina General Assembly had adjourned July 1st, after passing the 2022 budget adjustments by a strong bipartisan vote in both the House and Senate. However, last week the Governor signed the budget bill on Monday, the 11th, after waiting ten days. (FYI, according to the N.C. Constitution, had it not been signed or vetoed, it would have become law at midnight Monday.)
It was a tribute to the intense negotiations between the Legislative leaders and the Governor that we have an excellent budget that funds many necessary services and maintains fiscal responsibility with taxpayer dollars. Brunswick County and the state as a whole will benefit from this budget.
In the Justice and Public Safety area Brunswick County gets an additional Deputy Clerk of Court, and our Judicial District gets an added Assistant D.A. We are one of the few counties that got both. There is over $100 million increased investment in school safety across the state. This includes School Resource Officers (SROs) and school safety equipment such as cameras and automatic locking devices, for example, to harden our schools against trespassers that would harm our children.
Education funding is up almost $1 billion over the prior year. Teachers receive a 4.2% increase (9.1% over the biennium), school employees receive the greater of 4% or $15 per hour, and state employees receive 3.5%.
In Transportation, the budget increased both in the Highway Trust Fund that builds roads and the Highway Fund that maintains roads and funds other divisions, such as ports, ferries, aviation, rail, bike-ped, etc. For the first time the General Fund is transferring funds to the Highway Trust Fund. 2% of the state sales tax total dollars will increase this fund to build roads by $193 million this year with no increase in the sales tax rate to the taxpayers. 98% remains in the General Fund. This is an estimated sales tax on automotive products: tires, batteries, etc.
Brunswick County communities also received special grants for such things as parks and fire department capital needs and equipment. Shallotte receives $500,000 for their Mulberry Park project, and Ocean Isle Beach receives $395,000 for their park expansion. Directed grants to fire departments: Boiling Spring Lakes receives $250,000 for capital improvements and equipment, and Bolivia receives $75,000; all qualifying volunteer fire departments and EMS units can receive grants up to $35,000.
Other statewide appropriations of local interest are: Funds for travel and tourism marketing; grants available for the Go Outside school programs for field trips and instruction outdoors; added election assistance to update and maintain voter lists; and additional GREAT grants to further expand rural broadband.
It was good to get a 2022 – 2023 budget on time in July rather than the late experience in 2021 – 2022. N.C. citizens can be proud of these important investments and the fiscal restraint of our state.