State budget includes funds for Carteret Community College, Down East, flood mitigation and more

Todd Miller, director of the N.C. Coastal Federation, called the state budget’s allocation of resources to mitigate and prevent flooding, such as this in Cape Carteret in 2018, and other environmental efforts “pretty historic.” (Brad Rich photo)

EMERALD ISLE — The state’s budget, adopted Nov. 17 by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper, includes a veritable bounty for specific Carteret County projects and environmental mitigation along the coast.

“In my 15 years at the General Assembly, this is by far the best budget we have ever had,” said state Rep. Pat McElraft of Emerald Isle, a Republican who represents Carteret and Jones counties. “We were careful where we spent the money and filled in gaps with the federal money where it was authorized to do so.”

Rep. McElraft, a chairperson of the House Appropriations, Agriculture and Natural and Economic Resources Committee, said she was happy to work with others, including state Sen. Norman Sanderson, a Republican who represents Carteret, Craven and Pamlico counties, to help fund many local projects.

 Among the specific appropriations for Carteret County are:

·     $1 million for a dredging project for the planned Carteret County boat ramp launch off Highway 24, with no local match.

·     $2 million for Sugarloaf Island off Morehead City for living shoreline and submerged aquatic vegetation planting.

·     $250,000 for flood mitigation in Marshallberg.

·     $1 million for the Carteret Community College culinary arts program.

·     $900,000 to CCC for a new firefighting training tower.

·     $500,000 to help fund completion of the Cape Carteret Trail.

·     $783,333 to Carteret County for capital improvements for the Down East fire station and other capital projects.

·     $250,000 for sidewalks and trail construction in Newport.

·     $250,000 for repairs at the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center.

·     $3 million for planning money for the N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort.

According to a Nov. 17 news release from Rep. John Hall, House majority leader, the budget also includes nearly $1 billion for disaster relief and flooding mitigation for hard-hit areas.

“Specifically,” the release states, “the package creates a reserve of $800 million for disaster-related programs and projects. It appropriates $412 million of this amount for immediate use, including $124 million for Tropical Storm Fred relief. The remaining $380 million will be put in reserves to ensure the state can respond quickly to future natural disasters.”

Rep. Bell said, “North Carolina has now been hit by two 1,000-year floods within the past five years. This budget provides an historic and unprecedented investment to help these local communities recover and prepare for future disasters. This is the largest proactive, statewide package that North Carolina has ever made to address flooding. It will help put an end to the costly cycle of spending after disasters.”

Todd Miller, founder and executive director of the N.C. Coastal Federation, based in Ocean, also called the environmental funding overall “pretty historic.”

It is a “sizeable investment in planning and mitigation,” he added, including funds to incentivize creation of living shorelines, such as at Sugarloaf Island, and money to enable increased populations of oysters, long a primary project of the federation as the creatures filter pollutants from waters as they feed.

Mr. Miller said he was aware of many of the provisions that would be in the final budget and followed the process, “but you never know” until the budget is adopted.

He praised Rep. McElraft and state Sen. Sanderson for working diligently to fund much-needed environmental programs and mitigation projects and praised Gov. Cooper and his administration for support and signing the budget. Mr. Miller said he was particularly pleased the budget passed with bipartisan support. The key now, he said, is to make sure the many “opportunities” presented by the funds are spent wisely.

Rep. McElraft said she was glad the legislature was able to accomplish all of these things for Carteret County and the state, while also giving tax breaks.

“Tax reductions have been shown to increase revenue with new businesses fighting to come to N.C. because of our tax climate,” she said in an email. “It has allowed us to spend more money on resiliency from flooding and storms, land conservation for military buffer zones, parks and recreation, road building, water/sewer and other infrastructure.”

In addition, she said, the state was able to give bonuses and pay raises to employees “who hadn’t had a significant increase in years, and increased teacher and non-certified education employees’ salaries.”

Finally, she said, “I am happy that the budget was bipartisan and that (Gov. Cooper) decided to sign it. I’m very proud of this budget and all it does for our citizens in a fiscally sound way.”

The budget spends $25.9 billion in the current fiscal year, which started July 1, and $27 billion in the 2022-23 year.

 

Note: This article was updated at 11:42 a.m. Monday, Nov. 29, 2021, to correct a typo.  

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

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