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'Huntersville deserves its share.' | Lawmakers give $12 million to the ARP-shortchanged town

A WCNC Charlotte investigation found the Town of Huntersville received far fewer American Rescue Plan dollars than even smaller towns. The state budget changes that.

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — Five months after a WCNC Charlotte investigation found the federal government shortchanged Huntersville millions of dollars in pandemic relief, $12 million is now headed to the town. Following questions from elected leaders and WCNC Charlotte, state lawmakers came to the rescue and included the money in the budget signed by the governor Thursday.

"It's a significant amount of money for a town Huntersville's size," Mayor John Aneralla said. "It is a pretty amazing bipartisan effort."

In recent months, lawmakers on both sides joined together to make sure the growing town of 58,000 people wouldn't be put at a disadvantage.

"I'm delighted," Congresswoman Alma Adams (D), NC-12, said. "Huntersville deserves its share. They were shortchanged."

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In June, WCNC Charlotte analyzed how the federal government awarded American Rescue Plan money and found Huntersville received fewer ARP dollars than 15 other cities and towns in the Carolinas with smaller populations. The funding was also among the lowest per capita in North Carolina and South Carolina.

Rep. Adams cited WCNC Charlotte's investigation in a letter sent to state leadership this summer.

"I'm just delighted that Huntersville was made whole," she said. "We should all be about fairness and equity in this process." 

Even before WCNC Charlotte started asking questions, Mayor Aneralla was already on a crusade to right the wrong, knowing the town received $12 million less than a congressional report first estimated.

"This is a positive for Huntersville and I appreciate everybody's help," the mayor said. "I hope it's something that will be a blueprint for the future."

The $12 million allocated in the recently approved and signed state budget amounts to almost a third of the town's annual budget. Huntersville can use the money for everything from water and sewer improvements to community support and possibly even transportation. Mayor Aneralla said without the funds, the town "would have been slower to build out" its infrastructure post-pandemic.

The bi-partisan effort is especially rewarding to Aneralla considering the three-term mayor did not run for re-election. His last day on the job is fast approaching.

"It's a great thing to set off in the sunset, let me tell ya," he said.

More on state budgeting

The Department of Public Instruction for the 2021-2022 fiscal year also said it would use $25,000,000 in nonrecurring funds to establish the Children with Disabilities Reserve. 

Funds from the Reserve will be allocated to public school units that enroll more children with disabilities during the first two months of school than the Department anticipated prior to the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year in a manner consistent with funding for children with disabilities. 

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Public school units shall not receive funds, including from the Reserve, for children with disabilities in excess of 13% of the 2021-2022 average daily membership of the unit during the first two months of school.

In other state budget news, the Department of Public Instruction will use $2,500,000 to establish a program entitled "Failure Free Reading" to support middle school students in authorized public schools who read below grade level. 

The department will create an application for funds and make the application available to authorized public schools prior to Jan. 15, 2022. 

Local superintendents in public school units with authorized public schools may apply for a portion of the funds at a rate of two hundred fifty dollars ($250.00) per student. 

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