LUMBERTON — The budget approved by the General Assembly last week that is likely to become law has more than $9.1 million for Robeson County for a variety or projects, including a major one at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
UNCP’s School of Business will receive $6 million of that money, according to information from Sen. Danny Britt Jr. and Rep. Brenden Jones, both Republicans who represent Robeson County. The university also will receive $3 million in non-recurring federal Maternal and Child Health Block Grant funds to initiate a three-year demonstration project titled “Every Week Counts.”
More than $145,000 is earmarked for 18 other funding needs in Robeson County, according to the lawmakers. Columbus County, which the two state lawmakers also represent, stands to receive almost $2 million for 23 different funding needs.
The state House on Friday gave final approval to alterations to the second year of the two-year, $23.9 billion state government budget. The Senate finished its debate and votes on Thursday. The spending plan now goes to Gov. Roy Cooper, who has 10 days to approve it, veto it or let it become law without his signature.
On Friday, Britt and Jones said in a joint statement, “We are excited that we could secure more funds this year for additional improvements and projects in in Columbus and Robeson counties. This is good news! We made a promise to our citizens to take care of the district and we look forward to continuing to do everything we can to ensure our needs are met. We realize that it is impossible to meet every need in one term and our promise will continue into 2019, also. We will again work together on both sides to secure funds for additional needs that we were unable to receive this year. We intend to work hard to ensure better pay for veteran teachers and other state employees that may not have received a significant pay increase this year, in next year’s budget.”
The top funding recipient in Robeson County, besides UNCP, is the town of Rowland, which is slated to get $20,000. St. Pauls, Lumber Bridge and Maxton are in line to receive $15,000 each. The money is to be used for downtown revitalization in St. Pauls, Town Hall improvements in Lumber Bridge and the Learning Center in Maxton. The Prospect Fire Department in Maxton also is to receive $15,000.
The rest of the Robeson County allocations are $10,000 for the Allenton Community Building, $5,000 to Parkton Ruritan Club, Inc., $3,000 to Rennert Volunteer Fire Department, $5,000 to the Colors of Life Center, $5,000 to Deep Branch Fire Department, $2,500 to East Howellsville Fire Department, $2,500 to Britts Township Volunteer Fire Department, $2,500 to Proctorville Volunteer Fire Department, $2,500 to Pembroke Rural Volunteer Fire Department, $5,000 to the United Saddletree Center for repairs and upgrades, $10,000 for the purchase of class equipment at Robeson County Career Center, $7,500 to the Robeson Early College High School, and $5,000 to the Robeson County Re-entry Council.
The top allocations intended for Columbus County are $700,000 to provide grants-in-aid to the towns of Princeville and Fair Bluff for contractual services related to management and use of disaster recovery funds. Fair Bluff is to receive $350,000 for housing. The towns of Chadbourn and Lake Waccamaw are to receive $55,000 each. The money is to be used for downtown revitalization in Chadbourn and the purchase of a rescue vehicle in Lake Waccamaw.
Britt and Jones touted other highlights in the spending plan passed by the Republican-controlled state Legislature. Among them are an additional $700 million for public education, pay raises for state employees, the allocation of an additional $60 million to help victims of Hurricane Matthew rebuild, and adding $161 million to the state’s rainy day fund.
The lawmakers said the rainy day fund has been “built to a historic high of $2 billion to ensure North Carolina is well-prepared for the next natural disaster or economic downturn.”
Not all of Robeson County’s General Assembly delegates were ready to celebrate the spending plan’s passage.
In a statement released Thursday, Rep. Charles Graham, a Democrat from Lumberton, said, “Families in Robeson County deserve good schools, safe drinking water, and more money in their pockets. Instead, Republicans in Raleigh are only focused on more tax breaks for millionaires. Those are the wrong priorities for my community.”
Graham, who voted against the spending plan, went on to say the budget proposed by Gov. Cooper and legislative Democrats would have given larger raises to teachers and school personnel and would have provided more than double the investment in state employee salary and benefits than the “Republican Special Interest Budget.” Cooper’s budget proposal also provided an additional $140 million in Hurricane Matthew recovery funds compared to $60 million in the Republican budget.
“The Republican budget was widely criticized for its handouts to special interests and inadequate funding for public schools, workforce training, and water protection resources,” Graham said. “Out of fear of North Carolina votes in November’s elections, Republican leaders refused to allow any input from the public and banned amendments to correct mistakes or fix broken priorities in the budget.”
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