A majority of the commissioners say the county can afford it.

The cut could mean tax savings ranging from $32 to $102 on a $100,000 house, depending on whether it's in the Guilford County or High Point school district.

But the cut would also mean less funding for health and mental health; cuts in emergency aid to poor families; cuts to special agencies that rely on county dollars; and a much-talked about cut of more than $10 million to the Greensboro, Guilford and High Point schools.

And if school funding is cut this year, taxpayers would get an even more sizable jolt next year, when by law, school merger is expected to increase the tax rate.

In preparing for budget cuts this year, school officials said they'd lose teachers, which ultimately would hurt students. After commissioners proposed a funding switch that would spare teachers, school officials said that approach would cost support services, which also would hurt students.

``If you add up where they're taking their cuts, about 75 percent of all the cuts they're making are in education,' said Lee Bernick of the Greensboro Board of Education. ``That's at the expense of education. This tax cut is being made on the back of education.'

The social services director says the budget would mean fewer poor people getting emergency aid.

The health and mental health directors say they can sustain a combined $1.2 million cut.

The commissioners' GOP coalition - board Chairman Dean Dull, Vice Chairman Steve Arnold, Jim Lumley and Jackie Manzi - believes the proposed cuts can be made without hurting services.

``The basic reason is the county has been consistently frugal with its revenue during the course of the last year,' Arnold said. ``What was put in the budget proposal was in real terms what we have been spending the past fiscal year.'

At budget hearings last week, Arnold said that if people get hungry, they could go to churches, the YMCA or even come to his house for food. He later categorized his remarks as being facetious.

Democrats Katie Dorsett and Jim Kirkpatrick are not as confident about the budget, but they don't have the votes to fight it.

``The budget proposed by a majority of this board represents what they want to hear,' Kirkpatrick said, ``not what the reality of the situation is in the health and social services areas.'

___________________________________________________________________________\ WANT IT MEANS

Positive: A proposed county tax cut could mean savings from $32 to $102 on a $100,000 house, depending on which school district it's located in.

Negative: Cuts also would be necessary in county health and aid programs, as well as in schools.\ -----------------

WANT TO GO?

The Guilford County Board of Commissioners meets 5:30 p.m. today in pre-session, 6:30 p.m. in regular session, Old County Courthouse, 301 W. Market St., Greensboro.

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