The poor get poorer

Published 8:53 am Thursday, July 1, 2010

Not only did the proverbial horse change, the stream just got a bit wider to cross.

The news coming out of Raleigh is disturbing as those responsible for crafting the next state budget have opted to intercept funds from the NC Lottery, money that was destined to help all 100 counties statewide.

While their intention to use that money to save the jobs of classroom teachers is commendable, their thought process of how to distribute the Lottery proceeds among the counties teeters on the edge of insanity.

What came out of the back rooms of our state legislature, where a conference committee comprised of NC Senate and NC House members met to craft the budget, was a new distribution formula based 100 percent on the number of students within a school district.

Under the old formula, the Lottery funds were distributed based on a 65-35 percent basis that took into account a school district’s student population and a county’s effective tax rate vs. the statewide average.

By solely relying on student population, the smaller counties – the ones with a low number of pupils and a high tax rate – are each facing huge deficits in Lottery proceeds.

For example – Wake County, which boasts of the state’s largest student population at 144,856 pupils, will lose less money ($101,835) than Gates County…1,874 pupils and facing a Lottery deficit of $129,760.

Combined, the four counties of the Roanoke-Chowan area will absorb a hit of nearly three quarters of one million dollars to their coffers.

To pour more salt into the wound, all of our local counties just finished making extremely tough decisions on how to balance their respective 2010-11 fiscal year budgets. Those financial spreadsheets became effective today (Thursday, July 1). Now our local county leaders may have to reconvene in an effort to find money to offset the void left by this new distribution of NC Lottery proceeds.

We invite our state legislators to explain the fairness of this formula….or is it another case of where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.