[Editor's note: Jessica Cook was among four residents to speak out during the Union County Board of Commissioners meeting July 19 about the recently passed fiscal year budget. Here are Cook's remarks from the informal comments portion of the meeting.]

I'm coming to you tonight to express my disappointment in the new tax increase. It is especially concerning when it comes during the same time as our property revaluation year.

After the tax increase was approved four to one, I listened to the explanation that it was going towards Union County Public Schools, South Piedmont Community College and the hiring of four additional deputies. Well, who would argue with that? No one would be opposed to that type of funding.

But as I did more research, I found out that there's more to the story.

The county actually has a budget surplus. The county has a reserve of 20% and it's required to only have a reserve of 8%. Plus in the coming years, the county will receive around $46.5 million in stimulus money from the federal government. And I got that from Treasury.gov. There's even a third possible paycheck coming to Union County from an opioid settlement.

So again, if we have a budget surplus and a huge federal stimulus coming, why have you raised taxes on the citizens of Union County? There seems to be a spending problem here.

The second thing I want to bring to your attention, is that our school district, UCPS, does not provide students with textbooks. Doesn't that seem strange to you? They actually did away with paper-bound textbooks years ago and moved to digital textbooks.

But the thing is not very many teachers even use those textbooks. Instead our children, and possibly your children and grandchildren, are learning off sheets of paper that are printed off the internet all day long.

How can we be be providing our children here in Union County with an excellent education without textbooks? How can the students get a consistent and equal education across school clusters if teachers bring their own curriculum into the class from what they print off the internet?

I'm sorry, but a school without textbooks is no school at all.

So why am I bringing this to your attention?

Because next month I'll be speaking at the school board meeting on Aug. 3 and I'll be asking them to reinstate paper-bound textbooks back into our school system, but I'm anticipating that they will say they don't have the money for it.

After all, the school board asks you for $8.1 million but you gave them around $5.5 million. That's a 32% cut from what they asked for. And UCPS is currently dead last in state funding. They're number 116 out of 116 in school districts; yet, let me say this again, this county has a budget surplus, you raised our taxes and you're about to receive a huge stimulus payment. Why did you not fully fund our schools?

So I'm asking you tonight to reconsider and rescind the tax increase, cut spending in other areas other than our schools and most importantly, if the school board comes back and asks you for more money for textbooks, I hope that you'll overwhelmingly approve that.

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