9The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the county’s budget for fiscal year 2024-25 Wednesday night, rejecting requests for funding from several local nonprofits.
The $582.1 million budget includes $89.6 million for the Cumberland County Board of Education and $15.4 million for Fayetteville Technical Community College but did not change the county’s 79-cents per $100 property tax rate, County Manager Clarence Grier said.
Here’s what the board discussed before approving the budget:
Nonprofits speak out
In a brief public hearing before the final budget work session, several people spoke on behalf of the Airborne and Special Operations Museum Foundation and the Partnership for Children of Cumberland County. Both nonprofits requested funding in the fiscal year 2024-25 budget, but their requests were not approved, according to the draft budget.
Renee Lane, executive director of the Airborne and Special Operations Museum Foundation, outlined the museum’s recent struggles.
“A tragic and fatal vehicle accident closed the theater in February 2023, and in November, the [Pritzker] Motion Simulator ceased operation after 23 years,” Lane said. “Cost-cutting measures have included a hiring freeze, reduced hours for our retail staff and restricted advertising spending.”
Lane emphasized the museum’s key role in Cumberland County’s economy, noting that the museum had visitors from 10 foreign countries just last week.
“The Airborne and Special Operations Museum is a symbol of the Army’s rich and diverse history and unwavering support for our military heroes, to include the more than 50,000 veterans who live in this county,” she said. “Please reconsider our funding request so that together, we honor America’s heroes and show future generations what it takes to preserve freedom.”
According to the draft budget, the Airborne and Special Operations Museum Foundation requested $200,000 from the county but will not receive any funding.
Mary Sonnenberg, president of the Partnership for Children of Cumberland County, also pleaded with commissioners to reconsider funding for her organization. She said the partnership has provided over $128 million in state funding to the county and its agencies over the past 30 years. The partnership requested $300,000 to fund its Family Connects program and will not receive any money in the upcoming budget. The program, launched in October 2021, provides home visits to Cumberland County families with newborns.
“[The program] provides prevention services and supports maternal child health,” Sonnenberg said. “It shows 50% reductions in emergency room visits, reductions in Child Protective Services investigations and an increase in completion of maternal six-week postpartum health checks.”
“Our request for this amount of money is only 27% of the program’s annual budget,” she continued. “The remainder comes from private grants and Smart Start funding. These dollars are going to direct services to babies and their families.”
According to a handout given to commissioners by the Partnership for Children of Cumberland County, the Family Connects program has served 11,250 Cumberland County residents since its inception and is projected to enroll another 1,400 families in the next fiscal year.
“The partnership’s presence is engrained in the county’s economic and community fabric,” Sonnenberg said. “With the support that you might be able to give us with this investment, we can continue supporting our youngest children.”
The partnership is set to provide over $4.7 million to county agencies in the upcoming fiscal year, she noted.
In total, 16 nonprofits requested funding from the county. The 11 that will receive funding include:
• The Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County, $35,000
• Boys & Girls Club, $10,000
• Cape Fear Botanical Garden, $5,646
• Cape Fear Regional Bureau for Community Action, $10,328
• Cape Fear River Assembly, $9,923
• Child Advocacy Center, $1,000
• Cumberland County Coordinating Council on Older Adults, $150,215
• Cumberland County Veterans Council, $7,000
• HIV Task Force, $5,081
• United Way 211, $5,500
• Vision Resource Center, $15,000
‘Those stories need to be told’
In the budget work session, Commissioner Jimmy Keefe argued to fund the Airborne and Special Operations Museum Foundation.
“We’ve heard it all before that those who do not remember their history are doomed to repeat it in that matter, and those stories need to be told, not only to remember those young men and women who did those things but also to educate those who are coming over so that they remember and that they acknowledge,” Keefe said. “I would really like for the board to consider imagining our community without this facility for one moment and how much we would lose, and it would certainly be more than what they’re asking for tonight.”
Vice Chairwoman Toni Stewart cited a rule she said the commissioners’ American Rescue Plan Act Committee created that prohibits nonprofits that received ARPA funds from getting separate county funding.
Keefe’s motion for the board to provide the museum’s foundation with $85,000 in funding failed, with only Keefe and Commissioner Michael Boose voting in favor.
Chairman Glenn Adams said he didn’t believe the lack of funding would affect the museum’s operations. He added that the foundation needed to do more fundraising on its own instead of relying on municipalities for funding.
“The museum is going to be open regardless because the government pays to keep this museum open,” he said. “If you don’t raise funds and you just eventually think that ‘I’m entitled to this’ every year, I just have a problem with that.”
Adams estimated that over the past 10 years he has served on the board, the foundation has received $1 million from the county.
“You’re trying to tell me a nonprofit can’t live on $1 million?” he said.
Changes made to the draft budget
According to a news release from the county, changes to the original draft budget that will appear in the final version include:
$1,000 for the Child Advocacy Center, which was originally set to receive no funding
$50,000 for the Cumberland County Coordinating Council on Older Adults, which was originally set to receive $100,215. That brings its new total to $150,215
The removal of $2.6 million from the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office’s budget to account for the sheriff’s decision to no longer provide school resource officers and crossing guards in most public schools
The inclusion of a $447,149 grant in the Opioid Settlement Fund
An increase in county commissioners’ per diem pay from $50 to $100
Permission for county commissioners to enroll in the Local Government Employees’ Retirement System beginning July 1. This change is contingent upon the Local Government Employees Retirement System’s approval.
The county government faced a variety of constraints this year that led county staff to tighten the budget. You can read more about those issues and the draft budget Grier presented May 23 here.
The budget will go into effect July 1 and run through June 30, 2025.

(Photo: File Photo by Dawson Jarman)

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