MONROE — One day after a Union County jury directed county commissioners to give the public school system an additional $91 million, the chairman of the board of commissioners warned that service cuts and an increase in property taxes are inevitable.
In a prepared statement, Jerry Simpson, chairman of the board of commissioners, said that the $230 million in fund balances identified during the eight-week trial no longer exist.
“While at the end of FY 2012 these funds existed, it is important to note that a significant portion of these monies have been expended and the remaining earmarked for critical county capital projects and programs for law enforcement, human services, and other core county functions,” Simpson wrote.
School board chairman Richard Yercheck disagreed in a statement issued Friday.
“While on the witness stand, both County Manager Cindy Coto and County Commission Chairman Jerry Simpson acknowledged that there are county fund balances in the amount of $139,000,000, of which more than $120,000,000 is unrestricted,” Yercheck wrote. “There are ample funds available in the county’s coffers to fully fund the jury’s verdict without touching the county’s tax rate.”
Simpson argued that $91.5 million of the cited fund balance is in the county’s Water and Wastewater Utility Enterprise Fund which can only be used to maintain or improve the utility.
Simpson said the jury award will have”immediate and far-reaching effect” on the county’s ability to deliver services and that it is “impossible to think that it will not have a significant financial impact on taxpayers.”