Final Budget Prioritizes Pay Increases for Teachers and State Employees, Invests an Additional $1.5B in Public Education, Further Reforms Taxes, and Other Initiatives That Will Have a Dramatic Impact on Western North Carolina
RALEIGH, N.C. – Senator Chuck Edwards (R-Henderson), announced Monday some of the budget highlights that could most affect the western portion of the state. Although the Governor recently vetoed the budget that recently passed both chambers, he is optimistic that these provisions will withstand the next phase of budget negotiations.
Senator Edwards further applauds his partnership with Representative Chuck McGrady to ensure that Western North Carolina was well recognized.
“We continue to invest in our families, our economy, our environment, and our natural and cultural resources,” said Senator Edwards. “This budget would make a significant impact on the families of our state, and in particular Western North Carolina. As a first-year Appropriations Chairman, I was fortunate to have Rep. McGrady - a seasoned Appropriations Chair as a team member in the House. There is no doubt that the synergy created between the two of us allowed us to represent our districts in a way that may have otherwise not been possible.”
The following provisions are some of the highlights from this biennium's budget that will provide funding for programs and initiatives that Senator Edwards believes a majority of Western North Carolina citizens will have an interest.
- The Henderson, Transylvania, Buncombe, and City of Asheville schools systems would receive $42 million towards school construction and capital projects.
- Blue Ridge Community College would receive $2.9 million for capital improvement projects for new construction or rehabilitation of existing facilities and repairs and renovations.
- Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (AB Tech) would receive $8.27 million for capital improvement projects for new construction or rehabilitation of existing facilities and repairs and renovations.
- UNCA would receive reimbursement of $780 thousand for losses they incurred during delays in the construction of Woods Hall.
- The North Carolina School of Science will soon have a campus much farther west of Durham, enabling easier participation from western counties. It will receive $6.2 million for operational startup costs at the Morganton campus that is now under construction.
- Montreat College would receive a $20 million grant for an innovative Cybersecurity Regional Training Center that is expected to bring an advanced technology focus to the western region.
- Muddy Sneakers, a program that takes fifth graders outdoors to study science and ecology, would receive $500 thousand that would now become an annual recurrence instead of being funded year-to-year.
- Outdoor Experiential Science Education would receive $1 million to provide funds for multi-day workshops for teachers to increase their use of the outdoors in teaching required curricula and bring students on experiential fields trips to a State park.
- Transylvania County would receive an additional $25 thousand grant for the Early Childhood EducationInitiative.
- Henderson County Public Schools would receive $100 thousand towards expanding their “Leader in Me” Education Initiative.
- Buncombe County Public Schools would receive $100 thousand towards expanding their “Leader in Me” Education Initiative.
For the Environment
- The state Clean Water (CWSRF) and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) would receive $7million to help finance costs to help ensure safe drinking water supply.
- $500 thousand for Hemlock Restoration would become a recurring expenditure instead of having to fund it year-to-year. An additional $100 thousand would be injected into the program, and a comprehensive study will be required by N.C. Department of Agriculture to measurably determine the results of the program and set the tone to determine future needs.
- The Dupont State Forest would receive $100 thousand towards the development of a master plan that will look at how to grow the outdoor attraction in a way that incorporates numerous outdoor activities and interests.
- The French Broad River Paddle Trail would receive $100 thousand to expand fishing and camping tourism with improvements in Transylvania, Henderson, Buncombe, and Madison counties.
- $150 thousand would go towards the Green River Game Lands to improve public access to a popular recreation area in Henderson and Polk counties.
- N.C. Department of Agriculture and N.C. Department of Wildlife are directed to conduct a study in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service to develop a plan to address the documented population decline of wildlife on state and federal managed lands.
- $1 million would be dedicated for Prescribed Burning Grants to rejuvenate matured forest lands and to help address invasive plant species.
- Mountain True would receive a $100 thousand directed grant for recreational water quality testing.
- A $200 thousand fund would be established to address hazardous spills from unknown sources. This program fills a void that would have helped address recently oil found leaking into a popular WNC river.
- The Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF), a fund to which WNC has become a frequent beneficiary, would receive $43.8 million.
- N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF), another popular fund to which WNC has become a regular beneficiary, would receive $40 million.
- Farmers from Buncombe, Henderson, Transylvania, Haywood, Polk, and Rutherford, counties could receive desperately needed financial assistance after experiencing significant crop losses in 2018 that resulted from severe flooding. Reimbursements could reach as high as $10 million.
- $18 million will be used to create the Viable Utility Reserve to provide grants to distressed water infrastructure entities and wastewater systems.
- The Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund will receive $3.5 million.
- The Future Farmers of America would receive a directed grant of $500 thousand to the NC Future Farmers of America Association expansion of the NCFFA center.
For Cultural Resources
- The newly enacted Pisgah View State Park would receive $2 million to help fund Phase I of property acquisition.
- The Asheville Arts Museum would receive a directed grant of $200 thousand to help fund its recent relocation.
- The Flat Rock Playhouse, N.C.’s official state theater, would receive a directed grant of $50 thousand to help remodel its main stage.
For Economic Development
- The Asheville Regional Airport (AVL) would receive $4.8 million to help fund continued infrastructure improvements.
- Hendersonville Downtown would receive $100 thousand for downtown revitalization projects.
- $2.5 million would go to Affordable Housing Grants for nonprofits for the planning and construction of affordable housing.
- The Watauga River Paddle Trail would receive $100 thousand to expand camping and fishing tourism.
- Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC) would receive a total of $21.6 million where $13.1 million would be spent on Travel and Tourism Advertising in N.C.
For Health and Human Services
- The Western School of Medicine, Asheville Campus would receive annually recurring funds of $4 million per year for a joint program between the UNC School of Medicine, other UNC System universities, and the Mountain Area Health Education Center.
- Pisgah Legal Services would receive $50k to provide services for area veterans.
- First Contact Ministries in Henderson County would receive $25k that would go towards a drug and alcohol treatment facility.
- First Step Farm of Western North Carolina in Candler would receive a $250 thousand grant to support their licensed residential supervised living center for substance dependent adults, serving all 100 counties of North Carolina.