Rowan County receiving tens of millions of dollars in state budget. Here’s what’s funded.

Published 12:10 am Thursday, November 18, 2021

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Rowan County projects and institutions are slated to receive tens of millions of dollars in funding from the state budget lawmakers passed this week.

A new budget was not finalized in North Carolina for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 fiscal years, with Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, vetoing the legislature’s approved budget in 2020 due to the exclusion of Medicaid expansion by the Republican-led General Assembly. As a result, the state has primarily operated on the spending amounts outlined in the 2018-19 fiscal year budget.

This year, the state has millions more dollars coming from the federal government and a surplus of millions in tax revenue. If signed, the budget would spend $25.9 billion in the current fiscal year, which already started July 1, and $27 billion in the 2022-23 year. The Rainy Day Fund balance is estimated at $4.25 billion by the end of next year. Though Medicaid expansion is not included in the compromise budget, it does establish a committee to study health care access with a recommendation for legislation next year.

The House and Senate both voted in favor of the state budget Thursday, with a vote of 104-10 in the House and 41-7 in the Senate. It now heads to the governor’s desk for a signature or veto, though he indicated this week he intends to sign the compromise budget.

Sen. Carl Ford, a Republican representing parts of Rowan and Stanly counties, and Rep. Harry Warren, a Republican representing Rowan County, say they’ve worked this legislative session to secure at least $70 million for Rowan County. Of that, $23 million will go directly to the town of East Spencer, which Warren said is enough to erase its debt, replace its water and sewer infrastructure and expand it. The town is currently on a watchlist with the Local Government Commission due to financial issues with its water/sewer fund.

Warren said the next big item on his agenda for East Spencer is an interchange off of Interstate 85, which is expected to aid in economic development.

Local items funded include $10 million for the North Carolina Transportation Museum to cover the costs of renovating the Powerhouse facility and constructing a garage to house historic rail cars and $280,000 to replace lost revenue from the pandemic. The budget also includes $4.7 million for a new Partners in Learning facility on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, $250,000 for Rowan Helping Ministries, $100,000 for the Crosby Scholars program, $200,000 for Bell Tower Green Park, $20,000 for Rowan Museum and $15,000 to help fund a position in the Rowan County District Attorney’s Office.

Though both Livingstone College and Catawba College are earmarked to received $50 million each in the budget, Ford and Warren secured separate allocations of $6.6 million for Livingstone and $762,500 for Catawba. Those funds come from both unspent COVID-19 relief dollars and the federal American Rescue Plan, which provides millions of dollars of funding for public and private schools in the education fund.

A total of $1 million is earmarked for a new treatment facility for Gateway of Hope Addiction Recovery, $5 million for a recovery center and the purchase of recovery beds with Healing Transitions, $1.5 million to establish a new treatment facility at Will’s Place, $210,663 for the Rowan County Health Department and $5 million for the Mid-Carolina Regional Airport.

The town of China Grove is slated to receive $17,000 for a veterans memorial.

Warren said additional allocations he secured include $500,000 to Rowan County government for capital improvement needs and $10.9 million secured for the W. G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center.

Warren said he was disappointed that his request for $1.5 million to expand the ApSeed program into five counties was struck from the budget during negotiations. But he’s working to advocate for that funding as a separate measure particularly because of how many families and children the program can help.

Ford also worked with Rep. Wayne Sasser, a Republican who represents parts of Rowan, Cabarrus and Stanly counties, to secure approximately $28 million for a project at Stanly County airport.

“After months of good-faith negotiations with the governor, I’m proud to see the compromise budget pass,” Ford said. “For the past decade, North Carolina Republicans enacted smart, restrained budgets. Because of that responsibility, we’ve seen multi-billion surpluses.”

Warren said this year’s process of directly involving the governor in the negotiations set a good precedent to help facilitate a compromise. This marks his sixth budgeting process since being elected, and he credits it with being “much more bipartisan in the negotiation process.”

Neither Sasser nor Rep. Julia Howard, who represents parts of Rowan and Davie counties, could be reached for comment.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.