Community Meeting Focused on New Hanover County Budget, Cuts

May 30, 2017

New Hanover County’s new fiscal year begins July 1. That means county commissioners will vote June 19 on the new proposed budget. That budget was supposed to be on the agenda at a June 5 public hearing, however the commissioners canceled that session. 

The June 5th public hearing would have allowed citizens and organizations a chance to voice their concerns over the proposed budget.

“The meeting on June 5th was rescheduled to June 19th because of a personal conflict that a commissioner had relative to something going on in their family.”

Commission chair Woody White doesn’t think the cancellation hurts the process.

“The notion that changing or rescheduling from June 5 to June 19 is negative is not an accurate reality of what’s really taking place. It allows for an extra two weeks for the public to be engaged and converse with their commissioners on what they believe is important to them.”

Commissioner Rob Zapple disagrees.

“That meeting was cancelled at our May 15 meeting, at the end of our meeting our chairman announced that it was being cancelled.”

Zapple is concerned about the budget cuts that are hitting non-profit social service agencies in the area. So he took a new strategy.

“I thought it would be appropriate and a wonderful opportunity for the community to be able to come in and express their views and make comments on the public budget that we have coming up and so I asked for and received permission for a community meeting in the same venue where we meet as commissioners.” 

Again Woody White.

"Commissioner Zapple knows that, and is using this opportunity evidently to exploit a political situation which is disappointing, but he has chosen to do that which is his prerogative, and I am sure there will be very lively conversations about the budget I look forward to hearing about that. I don’t plan to attend.”

“Republicans and Democrats alike want less homelessness in our community, not more.”

Katrina Knight is executive director of the Good Shepherd Center. Her organization is facing cuts on the federal level. The county budget on the table slices $11,000 from Good Shepherd.

“That $11,000 is on top of very significant cuts from HUD last year to our transitional housing for homeless veterans. We have a federal budget being proposed right now that could eliminate community development block grant funds, that would be another $90,000. Just completely gone from our shelter operations.” 

Chairman White says the budget process is never easy.

“Not everyone is always happy whatever budget is decided, whatever budget additions are made or cuts are made, there are always some who think there should be more here or less there, that’s the nature of the beast. But our job is to consider and deliberate thoughtfully amongst ourselves in consultation with the public and our knowledge of our balance sheet and the finite resources that we have and to make the best possible decisions for allocating taxpayer dollars.” 

Zapple says even a small cut, has big implications.

“They are also receiving similar minimal funding from the city. When you combine the city and county money they use those participations when they go out for larger grants to show that the county and city recognize them and the good things that they are doing and they are worthy for our community and they use that to leverage larger grants from private organizations.”

The special community meeting is at the old county courthouse on Monday, June 5, at 5:30 p.m.

Rob Zapple is a member of the Board of Friends of Public Radio, WHQR’s governing body.