MONROE – Union County commissioners say they have received a lot of feedback from citizens since sending a letter to Gov. Roy Cooper requesting the autonomy to reopen local businesses.
Commissioner Stony Rushing told citizens during the May 4 board meeting that the county has to follow state law just like local barbershops and restaurants.
“I’m not speaking for the other board members, but knowing each one individually, I would think that all of us want this county open up as soon as possible and as safely as possible,” Rushing said.
He believes getting non-essential companies operational will help save small businesses and help fund schools.
Union County expects to approve next year’s fiscal year budget within the next few weeks, but the biggest variable will be the loss of local sales tax revenue due to the stay-at-home order.
March sales tax data won’t be available until June but Budget Director Blake Hart said the county estimates a 20% loss between March and June, which calculates to a loss of nearly $3.4 million from its fiscal year 2020 budget.
The county allocates 30% of its sales tax revenue to school debt and 2% to fire departments.
County Manager Mark Watson has frozen hiring, training and travel to offset losses. Hart said departments have been advised to create continuation budgets.
“There will be difficult decisions required to balance the budget to a flat tax rate,” Hart told commissioners.
Commissioner Richard Helms said his inbox has been filled with emails from people wanting life to get back to normal. He assured citizens that commissioners are doing everything possible, including talking to state lawmakers.
Commissioner Jerry Simpson mentioned the letter he sent to Gov. Cooper on behalf of the board.
“I have taken no action without full consultation with Mark and his administrative staff and our health professionals,” Simpson said. “I believe anything that we have moved in the direction to do has been well thought-out and made with information in an intelligent way.”
Watson will present his recommended budget on June 1. In the meantime, county parks are expected to reopen at 7 a.m. May 9 though some activities will not be available to maintain social distancing.
Watson is also working with staff to reopen county buildings within the month.