Wake puts budget gap at $18 million

Millions in cuts already proposed

Staff WriterJanuary 30, 2010 

— The County government faces an anticipated budget shortfall of nearly $18million for the fiscal year that begins July 1, the Wake County Board of Commissioners learned Friday.

The gap comes from an anticipated $8 million drop in funding and nearly $10 million in planned expenses, including about $3 million for 2percent merit and benefits increases for employees, county finance officials said.

The early take on a budget process that will last into June did not account for any new expense that could result from the revamping of the county school system by a new school board majority.

That possibility became a matter of dispute between board hairman Tony Gurley and board member Stan Norwalk. Norwalk claimed the school board's efforts to create a neighborhood-based system would cost $250 million.

"You're making things up," Gurley said, suggesting the system might save money by decreasing the amount of busing needed.

County departments have already proposed $16 million in cuts, including reducing ambulance service and hours at the Southeast Regional Library in Garner.

The news came at a two-day commission retreat at the Walnut Creek Wetlands Center, which was shortened into a one-day event due to the winter storm.

Former Chairman Harold Webb appeared at the retreat and stayed all day in his first in-person appearance at a commission event since his stroke last fall. Webb spoke little during the board discussions, but said afterward that he'll make a decision on whether to step down from the board in about two weeks.

Triangle Transit general manager David King made a presentation on the long-discussed mass transit plan for the Triangle, adding afterward that the project may get some assistance from the $545 million in federal rail improvement money for North Carolina announced this week as part of a federal stimulus package.

tgold@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8929

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