County: UCPS award may hurt taxpayers

MONROE – Leaders with Union County say the recent lawsuit between the county and Union County Public Schools likely will “have a significant financial impact on taxpayers” as officials try to figure out how to pay the $91 million jury award.

While UCPS Board of Education Chairman Richard Yercheck has argued the money could come from the county’s fund balance – which he said totals more than $210 million – Union County Board of Commissioners Chairman

Jerry Simpson said most of that money – which he puts at $230 million – is already spent or earmarked for other projects such as law enforcement, human services and “other core county functions,” he said in a news release.

Other funds from the fund balance are needed for water and sewer infrastructure issues, Simpson said.

“The need to expend $91 million over and above the planned budget in a single year will have an immediate as well as a far reaching effect on county government and its service delivery,” Simpson said in the news release. He referenced the statement as sufficient when reached for comment by Union County Weekly on Tuesday, Oct. 15, and officials with the county did not return an email seeking additional comment.

“The Board of County Commissioners, along with the manager and her staff, will be working over the next several days to develop a financially sustainable strategy to deal with this issue in an effort to develop a plan that will comply with the court’s order,” Simpson said in the statement. “As in every case, we will work toward an effort that minimizes disruption of county services and lessens the financial impact to property owners as much as possible.”

Not only does the county need to come up with around $91 million due to the jury award, assuming it does not appeal the decision and have the award reduced, but also must look toward the upcoming discussion on next school year’s budget. If this year’s budget – a $2.1 million increase over 2012-13 – wasn’t sufficient, the county may have to provide more in the 2014-15 budget to avoid another court battle.

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