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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Durham County, facing $14 M shortfall, eyes big construction

Posted by on Tue, Jan 6, 2009 at 11:25 AM

Durham County Manager Mike Ruffin told commissioners Monday night that they faced a $14.25 million budget shortfall, and needed to make an additional $5 million in budget cuts to balance the books. Ruffin's most significant recommendation was to cut spending on Durham Public Schools by $3 million. He also recommend lowering spending on Durham Technical Community College ($144,136), N.C. Museum of Life & Sciences ($43,370) and the Animal Protection Society ($18,347), NBC-17 reports.

Meanwhile, the Herald-Sun reports (reg. required) that Ruffin, along with General Services Director Michael Turner, recommended that the county proceed with two large construction projects: the proposed human services and courthouse complexes, which carry a combined price tag of more than $240 million.

"This could be one of the best times you see for building costs in a long, long time -- for many years," the paper quoted financial adviser Douglas Carter as telling the board.

Carter argued that the county should buy up low-interest short-term bonds, and later purchase long-term bonds, which currently have exorbitant interest rates.

"The contracting community is hungry for these projects," the H-S quoted him as saying.

Other local industries--in particular, education and non-profit sectors--may not be so well-fed, following budget decisions at the commissioners' Jan. 12 meeting.

"'I have a feeling we're going to be bombarded' with pleas to be spared," The News & Observer quoted Chairman Michael Page as saying.

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