Budget, schools up for discussion
The message was simple; Union County schools are about to feel the sting of the state deficit.
“We are flat broke,” N.C. Sen. Tommy Tucker said of North Carolina’s government.
Tucker along with N.C. Rep. Craig Horn, both Republicans, spoke to a small group of around 30 Weddington residents at a community meeting Thursday, March 31.
The meeting was designed to describe the painful decisions the two are having to make while helping craft the 2011-12 state budget, and the effect those decisions will have on Union County schools. The 2010 fiscal year ends June 30.
Horn spoke first and told the group North Carolina has a $3.6 billion deficit and school districts throughout the state are going to have to survive on less financial support from the government.
Horn placed most of the blame for the deficit on past members of legislature in Raleigh.
“It has been too easy for the government to spend money in the past,” he said.
According to both Horn and Tucker, the cut in state money for education will have a major effect on teacher assistants, the university system and assistant principles.
Both men said they knew how important teacher aids and assistant principles are to the education process, but they also expressed that tough choices would have to be made.
“We don’t want to cut anything,” Horn said.
“We know there are real people behind these numbers,” Tucker added.
Both indicated they intend to protect all teachers from being casualties of the new budget.
In addition to unrestrained spending by the men and women of legislature in Raleigh, Horn and Tucker pointed to the recession and how the state generates revenue as major culprits for the financial turmoil North Carolina is in today.
According to Tucker, the state receives 54 percent of its revenue from personal income tax. During the recession as the unemployment rate rose in North Carolina, there was less money available to tax and thus a smaller amount of revenue coming into the state.
Despite the deficit, one of the ways legislators could help reduce the state debt is off the table.
“We aren’t going to have a tax increase this year,” Tucker said.
Audience member and teacher Adam Haines disagreed with Tucker and said a tax increase should be discussed. Haines expressed that no one liked tax increases but said the government needs to find a way to raise revenue.
Another audience member, Julia Auzenne, believed the legislature is overlooking an obvious source of information that could help them in determining how much money should be spent on education.
“Go talk to the teachers,” she said.
At the end of the discussion both Horn and Tucker encouraged people to get involved in the political process and to communicate to legislators their thoughts and feelings.
“We need to hear from you,” Horn said. “These are things you can have a voice in.”
They also expressed the need for the politicians and the people they represent to work together to get North Carolina out of the predicament it currently is in.
“We have to come together to plug the gap,” Tucker added.