Union County

Commissioners prep for budget talks

After hearing public comments on their proposed budget earlier this month, Union County Board of Commissioners took some key actions.

Commissioners approved their tentative budget, which will have another public hearing June 15 before it goes up for a final vote by the commissioners by June 30. The budget includes total estimated revenue of $153.4 million – a 9.7 percent decrease from the previous year that is due, in part, to lower property values from the 2015 revaluation.

Board members also called for a joint meeting with the board of education to discuss the budget.

Commissioners also enlisted the services of the law firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice. At the time that appeared to be a proactive move in case the Union County Board of Education sues the county for more money in the currently proposed budget.

Late last week, however, the board of education halted what had been a two-year-old lawsuit against commissioners. School officials also appeared hopeful they could work with county commissioners.

The county’s budget will be finalized after the commissioners and school board members meet and Union County Public Schools’ budget details are ironed out. A public hearing is scheduled for June 1 on the school system’s budget request, and another public hearing is scheduled for June 15 on the county’s proposed “operating and capital budget.”

The decision to expand the county’s legal resources by using two attorneys from Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice followed a prepared statement from County Attorney Ligon Bundy. He reviewed information from the lawsuit filed by the school board against the county over the 2013-2014 budget that resulted in a $91 million judgment against the county. That judgment was reversed by the N.C. Court of Appeals.

Jane Duckwall is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jane? Email her at jbduckwall@gmail.com.

Lawsuit halted

During an early-morning closed session meeting May 22, the Union County Board of Education unanimously voted to drop its 2013-2014 funding lawsuit against the Union County Board of County Commissioners.

A jury originally awarded the school board a $91 million judgment in the budget fight two years ago, but the N.C. Court of Appeals reversed that decision and, on May 15, denied the school board’s request for a rehearing.

“We’ve taken this step in hopes that we will strengthen our relationship with the county and work together to address the needs of our students,” School Board Chairman John Collins said in a news release.

“I would like the public to know that the Board of Education has not directed legal counsel to gear up for any litigation regarding the 2015-16 budget, nor has the BOE had any discussions regarding redistricting in the foreseeable future,” Collins said.