Saturday, May 12, 2007

New Capital Projects

The board of County Commissioners met for a regularly scheduled meeting Monday, May 7th at 7 PM. During this meeting The Superintendent of Craven County Schools submitted his request for county funding for fiscal year 07-08. His request represents an 18% increase over what we budgeted last year. The County manager and his staff will be meeting over the next few weeks to discuss the School Boards request. We also heard from Dr.Scott Ralls, the president of Craven Community College. The college requested what amounts to a 7.72% increase over fiscal year 06-07.

Over the course of the next month we will be hearing from many county department heads and other organizations that receive funding from the county government. By the end of May the County Manager will present a budget proposal to the board of commissioners. The commissioners will meet throughout the month of June to fine-tune the budget. By state-statute, a new budget must be adopted by June 31st.

In addition to the regular agenda, there was a public hearing concerning the county borrowing 60 million dollars for the following projects.

1.Creekside Elementary School-$14,000,000. This school, which is currently under construction, is located on Old Airport Road. Creekside is being built to relieve overcrowding at Brinson elementary which is over 60 years old and at times has enrollment of close to 1000 students. Creekside will relieve current overcrowding at Brinson and should accommodate the growth in township 7 for some time.

2.New Jail-$30,000,000. The current jail was built to accommodate 70 inmates and at times has over 200. The State Department of Corrections has been telling the county for years to alleviate the overcrowding or they would require us to send our inmates to other jails. This would be very expensive in terms of manpower to move the inmates and the cost to house them in another counties jail.

3. Loan to Craven Regional airport. $1,800,000. I guess by know everyone has heard that Delta has 2 flights, soon to increase to 3, to Atlanta. These flights in addition to the 8 flights daily by US air to Charlotte give us a very viable airport for a small county. The airport board believes, and I agree with them, that with all the development occurring in Township 7 it is necessary to purchase several hundred acres that surround the airport. There are documented cases throughout the United States where airports have been forced to close and relocate because new housing developments were built near existing airports. The $1,800,000 we are lending the Airport will be to purchase necessary land to prevent housing developments from occurring around the runways. The airport will repay the county the $1,800,000 in 4 years. FYI, the county owns the airport, however we are not involved in the operations of the airport. They have a board of directors and an airport director(retired General Braaten) that manages the day to day operations.

4. Capital Improvements to the County Schools. $10,023,175. Many of our schools were built in the 40's,50's, and 60's and are in need of additions, updates, and or repairs. These funds will help to keep some of the older schools functioning for some time.

5.Tryon Palace History Center $1,000,000. The state has allocated $35,000,000 for the building of a history center in downtown New Bern. The funding for the history center will come by way of a bond referendum that will be voted on statewide in November. Before legislators would agree to commit state funds for the center they wanted a commitment from local government. They feel that if local governments have an ante in the project they will work harder to ensure its success.Tryon Palace Commission marketing studies indicate the history center will attract an additional 100000 visitors to New Bern. Even if their numbers were to be off by 50% the increase in sales and occupancy tax paid by visitors from outside of Craven County will allow us to recoup our $1,000,000 commitment in a few years.

The County Commissioners voted to fund these projects by way of what is called a certificate of participation. We basically give the lender an instrument similar to a mortgage. These improvements will not result in a tax increase as long as the state government does not alter our existing revenue stream.If you have any questions about these projects please call me at 633 0075 or 6335720.

Steve Tyson
District 7 Commissioner
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