Harnett Commissioners Pass Budget In 3-1 Vote

The Harnett County board of commissioners voted to approve the 2019-20 budget during its regular meeting Monday night – A financial plan that gives the county manager permission to execute any contract up to $500,000.

District 5 Commissioner Joe Miller gave the sole vote against the budget, which passed 3-1. One of his reasons for dissension, he said, was the spending power measure.

“What really blows my mind was where (the county manager) can spend half a million dollars without permission,” Miller said. “And it didn’t faze the rest of the board.”

Under the new budget, County Manager Paula Stewart will have the authority to execute any contract below the $500,000 formal construction bid amount, without getting prior approval from the commissioners.

Stewart submitted a revised budget to the panel which included increases paid for through funds from the General Fund balance to cover new expenses in education and for an assistant district attorney.

Stewart told the board an additional $2.4 million would be needed from the General Fund in order to balance the budget with the new expenditures.

The first was an increase in the amount of funding the county will now have to send to Harnett County Schools to cover students who have transferred to charter schools. Currently, the county passes along $1,141 for each of the 581 students who are in charter schools. The increase was just over $398,000.

The second change was due to a delay in funding for six months salary for an assistant district attorney position. The county will fund the position until state money is provided.

There were also changes to the amount of tax money the Duke (Erwin) Fire District and Spout Springs Fire District will now receive. According to Stewart, Erwin will see an increase in the tax levy by 1 cent and Spout Springs will see an increase of 2 cents for every $100 of property value.

In total, the county will spend and take in just over $126 million in fiscal year 2019-2020.

Miller, who has been a vocal critic of the budget, said he feels the county is going down a path which he’s not happy to see developing. He said he feels too many projects have been prioritized incorrectly.

“I don’t think the county is going in the right direction,” Miller said. “I think the administration building should have been put off and schools should have been built, the new sheriff’s office (jail cell block) pod that could have resulted in more federal prisoners being held and getting the funds because of this.”

In addition to passing the budget, the commissioners also approved the incentive agreement with KriGen Pharmaceuticals LLC. Under the terms of the five-year agreement, KriGen will create 117 jobs over the span of the agreement at their new manufacturing facility in Lillington and provide an extensive investment into the former Edwards Brothers manufacturing plant. The county in-turn will give the company incentive grants and pay a portion of the company’s water and sewer bill to the town of Lillington.

-Dunn Daily Record