The big news in today's papers: the County's FY11 budget process. Yes, we're only four months in to the FY10 budget, but County Manager Mike Ruffin is bringing budgetary ideas to the BOCC earlier than ever in light of what he predicts could be a very challenging financial situation for next year.
Ray Gronberg sums up the approach, and the problem, in two short paragraphs in this morning's Herald-Sun coverage:
Ruffin was hoping to get commissioners to agree to a set of policy guidelines administrations would then apply to their budget work. The approach is similar to what his counterpart in Durham's city government, City Manager Tom Bonfield, did last winter in framing a fiscal 2009-10 budget.
But while Bonfield was able to secure quick agreement on major points from his employers, Ruffin had no immediate luck in pinning down commissioners on the key question they face: how high they might be willing to go on the property tax rate.
At issue: a $4.4 million increase in debt service costs for school buildings and new county facilities like libraries and the human services complex under construction -- while County revenue may drop as much as $10 million, to say nothing of the specter of more state budget cuts or a lawsuit underway with IBM over how the County computes taxes on the company's computer equipment.
The N&O and Herald-Sun note that the BOCC faces an unpleasant choice: a tax increase during the recession (even its trailing edges) versus deep cuts in programs.
More news beyond the jump.
County Mulls Charter Schools: The popularity of charter schools continues to rise in Durham, but BOCC members on Wed. also scrutinized these institutions' academic performance; almost a half-dozen are pegged as low-performing or "priority" schools by the state, with Ellen Reckhow calling for more scrutiny in schools' academic performance just as the BOCC has asked questions of DPS over its priorities and outcomes, too. (Herald-Sun)
Durham MSA Sees Average Job Loss: Out of the nation's 100 largest job markets, the Durham MSA lost 10,000 jobs, or 3.4% of its workforce this past year. That ranked the Durham/Chapel Hill area 45th out of MSAs nationally. Raleigh fared slightly better, at a 2.9% loss; Charlotte and Greensboro ranked among the worst markets in the country. (Triangle Business Journal)
I-85 Blocked for Hours: Southbound I-85 was shut down entirely (and northbound partially) in the Roxboro Rd/Club Blvd. area on Wednesday after a truck swerved to avoid a car, crossing the median and spilling water-based paint on the roadway. (Herald-Sun)