Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 8, 2011

By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — The Rowan County Board of Commissioners heard about more than school funding at its public hearing on the budget Monday.
Commissioners voted in April to remove funding to the Rowan Arts Council, Rowan Museum Inc. and the Salisbury Rowan Human Relations Council. The county’s proposed fiscal year 2011-12 budget would cut most other nonprofit and special appropriations by 10 percent.
Whayne Hougland, chair of the Salisbury-Rowan Human Relations Council, said the council’s purpose is to create a secure environment of hospitality, inclusiveness, acceptance and appreciation of diversity.
“We were created by joint ordinances to ensure that the City of Salisbury and Rowan County would strive for the dignity and worth of every individual,” he said.
Hougland told commissioners that he knows $3,500 doesn’t sound like a lot of money, and it represents just a small percentage of the county’s annual budget.
“But the truth is, even though it’s a seemingly insignificant amount of money, taking it away suggests something very significant and troubling,” he said. “It suggests that you do not fully recognize, understand or support the mission your predecessors sought to engage.”
George Jackson, vice chair of the N.C. Martin Luther King Commission, said state grant funding that filters through the commission to local Human Relations Councils has dwindled to almost nothing. That money normally would be given for Martin Luther King Jr. holiday events, including the local breakfast.
“We need your support to continue to fund the Human Relations Council at its current level,” Jackson said, “because we believe that Dr. King’s legacy can best be promoted by the council and a group of people who reflect the overall demographic of the community.”
Other events the council hosts include Elizabeth Duncan Koontz Humanitarian Awards Banquet and La Fiesta De Rowan.
Two representatives from a faith-based sub-group of the Human Relations Council also encouraged the county to support the council. The Covenant Community Connection sponsors Let’s Get Connected Day, Meet Your Neighbor forums and the Mayor’s Spirit Lunches.
Jerry Chandler, vice president of advancement at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, brought up a different topic.
He told commissioners that this will be the third budget year the community college has requested $180,000 for maintenance of Building 400. Construction on the building began in spring 2009 and finished in summer 2010, and Chandler said the college has been operating it at a loss since then.
“We certainly understand the very tight situation that you’re in, and we appreciate your support this year that you were able to give to us,” he said. “We just respectfully ask that you consider in the future helping us make up this deficit, whenever you’re ready to do that.”
Not everyone spoke at the hearing to ask for county funding. In fact, a few people urged the board to make more cuts in order to avoid raising the property tax rate, which would increase by 2.75 cents per $100 valuation in the county’s proposed budget.
Marina Bare said many county residents have lost income and even their jobs, while prices for fuel, insurance, utilities and groceries have been going up.
“We’re paying enough taxes,” she said. “If some people want to pay more taxes, let them donate as much to the county as they like.”
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.