House budget leaves little space for local parks
Facing a multi-billion-dollar deficit, North Carolina is reaching into places previously considered off limits, looking to take back all unallocated grant money for parks. The problem for several Union County towns is that they had counted on getting those grants to design and build parks they purchased in the past several months.
The villages of Marvin and Wesley Chapel both purchased parks in the past year, with each submitting grant proposals to the state, to help pay for further development.
“At this point, it is unlikely that (parks) funding will survive,” N.C. Rep. Craig Horn said. “Even with the good news of higher than expected revenues coming in, we are still about $2 billion short (for the state budget). Add to that the anticipated cut in the corporate income tax rate announced by Gov. Perdue and the desperate needs of our teachers, I don’t see (parks) funds surviving.”
Parks grant funding has been a major part of maintaining and developing Union County parks in recent years. In 2004, the county split $500,000 between Cane Creek Park and Jesse Helms Park, while using a $500,000 grant in 2008 to help further develop the Jesse Helms property. The park trust fund handed out $9.1 million statewide last year.
The General Assembly established the park trust fund in 1994 to pay for improvements to the state park system and help local governments to acquire and build recreational facilities and parks on a dollar-for-dollar match.
Wesley Chapel has at least part of their funding secured. In late April, the state announced it awarded the village $100,000 for water based activities. The Dogwood Acres property is located on N.C. 84 across from Southbrook Church.
“We’re very excited about it,” Village Council liaison to the park committee Sondra Bradford said, explaining that water related recreation included walking trails around the park’s pond.
In nearby Marvin, the village council put down $950,000 in cash to buy land just outside its border.
If the state approved the village’s grant application, Marvin would have received up to $475,000, which would have reduced local taxpayers’ cost by half.