Guilford County Commissioners work on budget

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GREENSBORO, NC -- Guilford County Commissioners met for hours Monday to try to figure out the 2013-2014 budget.

Over the course of three hours, they discussed just two elements of the budget: fire departments and schools.

Nine of Guilford County's 19 fire districts are asking for a property tax increase to pay for things like new fire engines and more full-time employees.

Summerfield Fire Chief Chris Johnson said the number of volunteer firefighters continues to drop-off, while Guilford County Emergency Services requires fire departments to respond to more than just putting out fires.

"We cannot provide the services that the citizens expect of us without a tax increase," Johnson said.

The Oak Ridge Fire District asked for a tax rate decrease, having paid for its capital projects with a previous rate increase.

After the firefighters, Guilford County Schools Superintendent Maurice "Mo" Green told the commissioners why the school district needed an additional $13.5 million on top of what it got last year.

Green said an increase in charter schools will continue to pull funding from the district, even as Guilford County's enrollment increases.

"I'm worried," Green said. "We're at a point where we're not doing what we can to even come close to doing excellence by our students."

Guilford County Commisioner Alan Branson questioned if the time was right for property tax increases.

"Are we really out of the Great Recession, yet?" Branson asked. "Many of the folks out there paying property taxes are really struggling."

The county commissioners will approve a budget by the end of June.

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