Often overlooked amidst the hubbub over big ticket budget items, the General Government section of the joint budget catches a range of items from one-off technology purchases to the operation of many of the state’s administrative functions. While a more complete list is provided below, a few items deserve to be highlighted.
First, the North Carolina Senate will give themselves more operating funds, without a similar bump for the House. There may be perfectly legitimate reasons that the NC Senate needs more funds to do its work, but it is curious to see the chamber that generally takes a harder line on reducing government spending going in the other direction when it comes to its own operations.
Second, increased funding was made available to manage ConnectNC Bond Act projects. While bond proceeds will pay for primary construction activities, budget writers still needed to increase the state’s capacity to oversee the process. As many observers have noted, the ConnectNC Bond act will accelerate the building of new state infrastructure, but it will also require General Fund appropriations to maintain and use the new facilities that will be built.
Third, the legislature wants even more study on how to lease or sell “underused” state properties. The budget includes $600,000 to study which properties are good candidates to be leased or sold, even though this topic has been the subject of substantial review over the last several years. There likely are some state properties that could be sold or leased, but it’s unlikely that the scope of the unknowns in this arena justify more than half a million dollars’ worth of new study. Let’s hope the analysis correctly identifies enough truly dispensable state assets to at least cover the cost of the study.
Fourth, additional funds were made available to invest in low-income housing. Here budget writers seem to recognize that the need for affordable housing in North Carolina far outstrips the supply, so it is heartening to see additional resources directed to this area of need.
- Special funds for Senate operation: Provides an additional $1.5 million in recurring funds to operate the Senate. No similar increase made for the state House, and no description provided for the need and uses of these new funds.
- New staff: Provides $278,200 for three new positions to assist agencies with ConnectNC Bond act projects. Total appropriation specifically for administration of ConnectNC Bond now $8 million.
- State Construction Office: Provides approximately $577,000 for software and six new positions to manage the projects funded through the ConnectNC Bond Act.
Dorothea Dix Proceeds
- Child crisis centers: Devotes $2 million to support start-up costs for two new child facility-based crisis centers.
- Rural psychiatric services: Provides $18 million in non-recurring funds to expand inpatient psychiatric services in “rural areas near counties with limited in-patient capacity relative to their needs.”
Housing Finance Agency
- Low-income housing: Provides $5 million in non-recurring funds for the Workforce Housing Loan Program, bringing total FY 2016-17 appropriation to $20 million.
Department of Revenue
- Tax fraud audits: Provides $2 million for continue an outside contract to perform tax fraud analysis and system upgrades.
State Property Office
- Study underused state facilities: Provides $600,000 to study which state-owned facilities and properties are best suited for sale or lease. Study can be conducted in-house by the State Property Office or contracted out to a consulting firm.
- Onslow County career and technical education center: Provides $5 million in one-time funds for Onslow County to retrofit and equip a regional career and technical education center.
- Mecklenburg County Sportsplex: Provides $1 million for the Mecklenburg County Sportsplex
- Sidewalk projects: Provides $500,000 to the Town of Matthews and $500,000 to the Town of Mint Hill to build new sidewalks
- Policy Collaboratory: Creates $3.5 million grant to UNC-Chapel Hill for the North Carolina Policy Collaboratory. A one-to-one match is required of the University.
- Applied Physical Sciences: Provides for a $4 million challenge grant to UNC-Chapel Hill for applied physical sciences. A one-to-one match is required of the University.
- Jones County Schools: Provides $3 million toward construction of new collocated middle and high school in Jones County.
- New Hanover County technical education: Provides $1 million grant to the New Hanover County Board of Education for planning of a technical education high school, to be developed in partnership with the Cape Fear Community College.
Fire, Rescue, and National Guard
- Pension fund contributions: Increases state contribution to the National Guard Pension Fund by $1.5 million and to the Firefighters’ and Rescue Squad Workers’ Pension Fund by $3.7 million. Both contribution increases are recurring.
- Rescue Squad Workers Relief Fund: Restores transfer of $1.5 million to continue the state grant program that assists eligible beneficiaries.
- Volunteer Rescue/Emergency Medical Service fund: Restores $1 million transfer to the grant program which assists eligible beneficiaries.
- Building code registry: Provides $425,000 to make the NC Building Codes Registry accessible online.