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Wednesday, 29 March 2006 00:00

A raw deal for WNC

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According to provisions in the state’s lottery law, about a third of the money raised in the lottery (35 percent) would go toward education programs — an estimated $425 million, according to state figures. Half of this money will go to pay for more classroom teachers in early elementary grades and pre-kindergarten programs. Of the remaining portion, 40 percent would go toward school construction projects and 10 percent would go to college scholarships based on a student’s financial need.

Here’s where the percentages get a little tricky. According to the formula for dividing up the proceeds from the lottery, about two-thirds of the money set aside for school construction would go to school districts based on student population.

However, according to an additional provision of the lottery law — a section added on to the original bill in the state Senate’s version that passed — 35 percent of the money set aside for school construction projects will only go to school systems in counties that have a tax rate higher than the statewide average.

None of the 22 westernmost North Carolina counties — nor 48 statewide — would qualify to receive that money since their tax rates are lower than the state average.

Many counties in the eastern part of the state qualify for this money since they generally have higher tax rates. In fact, drawing a line down the middle of the state, the 46 counties on the western half have only 11 counties that would qualify for the extra state lottery money. However, among the 54 counties to the east of that dividing line, 41 qualify for the extra lottery money.

How much money are we talking about? Based on the state estimate of $425 million going toward education programs, about $59.5 million of that would be set aside for those North Carolina counties with higher tax rates. Divided up among all the counties based on average student enrollment, it could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

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