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Carteret County Sheriff Asa Buck thanks county commissioners during a meeting Monday night for funding new deputies in his office, including two for western Carteret County and several school resource officers. (Brad Rich screenshot)

 

BEAUFORT — Carteret County commissioners Monday night unanimously approved a $122 million 2022-23 operating budget that doesn’t raise property taxes, fully funds three new school resource officers and pays for two new sheriff’s deputies earmarked for the fast-growing western part of the county.

The board met in its chambers in the administration building on Courthouse Square in Beaufort and live via the county’s Facebook page.

The three new resource officers – to be in Bogue Sound Elementary, Harkers Island Elementary and Atlantic Elementary, all outside municipal limits – were requested by Sheriff Asa Buck after parents and others said they were needed. The push for additional SROs also followed the May shooting and killing of 19 students and two teachers in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

Additionally, the approved budget provides matching funds for four SROs in elementary schools in three municipalities, two in Beaufort, one in Morehead City and one in Newport. The county also plans to seek matching funds from the state.

The commission also expressed interest in using school bonds, passed by voters several years ago, to fund physical improvements to increase safety in the schools.

None of the seven schools have had full-time SROs. The in-town schools to get full-time SROs are Newport Elementary, which now shares one with Newport Middle School; Beaufort Elementary, which shares one with Beaufort Middle School; The Tiller School, which is a charter school; and Morehead City Elementary.

Sheriff Buck said the two new western Carteret deputies will also be trained as SROs so they can fill in at schools when needed. They will usually patrol between Morehead City and the county’s borders with Onslow and Jones counties. 

Sheriff Buck said during the meeting he was grateful to the commissioners and the county staff for the funds and for everyone working hard to help improve the safety of students, teachers and staff in the schools.

“We’ve been talking about this for years,” the sheriff said, “and I didn’t want to leave here without thanking you.” He added that he is thankful for the great partnerships his office has with the county commissioners and staff and with the school system. “We all work together to do what needs to be done. We’re to the point where we will have SROs in all of our schools.”

The sheriff called the additional two deputies for western Carteret County “a force multiplier” that will make the whole county safer because they will reduce the load on the existing deputies.

Commissioner Chuck Shinn of Newport thanked the staff and the rest of the board for the budget efforts on the school security issues.

“We’ve made some real progress on things we’ve been talking about for a long time,” he said.

Commissioner Bob Cavanaugh of Morehead City agreed and noted that the progress is being made during a time of high inflation and rapid growth in the county.

“We’ve tried to keep taxes low,” he said, and have done so, maintaining the rate of 33 cents per $100 of assessed value. At the same time, he said the county has a top-rated school system and a great sheriff’s department.

“We have a safe county and a great school system,” he said.

In addition, within the budget, the commission Monday night created a new EMS district for Newport, with a tax rate of 2 cents per $100 of assessed value, increased the tax rate in the Mitchell Village EMS district from 2 cents to 4 cents and increased the tax rate in the combined Mansfield Park Fire and EMS district from 9.25 cents to 11.25 cents.

The latter two changes were needed because of increased costs.

Newport submitted a request for an EMS tax district to the Carteret County Fire and EMS Commission, which in turn recommended county commissioners approve the district. Newport officials said the tax was needed to be able to afford to provide good service. The 2-cent tax is expected to raise $95,000 during the fiscal year.

The total county general fund, or operating budget is $122.2 million.

The biggest expenses are:

- Education, including the public school system and Carteret Community College, $29. 7 million.

- Sheriff’s Office, $13 million.

- Social Services, $10.6 million.

- Waste collection, $3.5 million.

- Information systems, $2.9 million.

- Communications, $2.7 million.

The largest source of revenue is the property tax, at $55.9 million, or about 46 percent of the total, followed by “other taxes,” including the sales tax at $20.6 million. The county is using $3.3 million of its general fund balance to make revenues and expenditures match.

The budget will go into effect July 1.

 

Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow-on Twitter @brichccnt

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