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County at odds over budget

SALISBURY — In the county’s budget talks, all eyes are on Chad Mitchell.
Commissioner Mitchell will be the deciding vote at an upcoming commissioner’s meeting after fellow county leaders deadlocked in a 2-2 vote Monday night.
County leaders said they will schedule another budget vote in coming days. Mitchell was absent Monday night following a death in the family.
Calling the budget “regressive” and citing cuts to the Rowan-Salisbury School System’s funding, Commissioner Jon Barber said he could not support the proposed budget.
“I’m set. I’m not budging on the school funding. I’m not budging on the EDC funding,” Barber said in a phone interview after the meeting. “The other four are going to have to sort it out.”
In a proposed budget, County Manager Gary Page recommended dropping the school system’s operational funding by about $250,000. This would keep per-pupil funding the same after an estimated enrollment drop of 140 students next year.
Chairman Jim Sides also voted against — but for a different reason.
Following the meeting, Sides said the proposed budget gives too much funding to the Rowan County Economic Development Commission.
“I’m 99 percent satisfied with it. There’s just 1 percent I couldn’t agree with,” Sides said of the budget. “The EDC funding. An additional $13,000 in funding this year, plus the $30,000 Mike wants for a new position. I think it’s time we look at the EDC in relation to its set up, its make up and its function — what we expect out of them. It might be that we need to do something different than what we’re doing.”
Both Vice Chairman Craig Pierce and Commissioner Mike Caskey supported the proposed budget.
Commissioners said they will schedule another public meeting to vote again with Mitchell present.
But the clock’s ticking.

County leaders have until June 30 to pass the general fund budget. All other sections of the budget passed Monday night.
“I know it’s not a perfect budget. It’s not everything everybody wanted, but I believe enough of it is there,” Caskey said, emphasizing his support.
Pierce followed, echoing Caskey’s reasoning.
“Of all things in life, you can’t have it all. That’s really what this budget comes down to,” Pierce said. “There’s not a whole lot that we don’t agree on. It’s just some different view points on a few different items.”
Still, Barber said budget discussion have been amicable.
“This year, this has been the most smooth, easy process that I have experienced since I was on this board,” Barber said. “This board has been very civil in our interactions with each other. There have been times that we have agreed. There have been times where we’ve agreed to disagreed.”
Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246 or follow on Twitter @rowanpol.

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