In Morrisville 101, residents learn ins and outs of town government

aramos@newsobserver.comJuly 8, 2013 

— Lauren Butler always figured town employees work hard, but she got a chance to see it first-hand as part of Morrisville 101, a series of free workshops that gives residents a behind-the-scenes look at town government.

Now Butler knows a thing or two about balancing Morrisville’s annual multi-million-dollar budget. As part of one of the sessions of the five-week program, instructors gave participants spreadsheets and financial parameters and asked them to crunch the numbers.

The group balanced the budget and added some new parks and services – but it had to raise property taxes to make it all work.

It was a real-life scenario, considering the Morrisville Town Council was faced with the same dilemma in June. Like the workshop group, the council decided to raise taxes, partly to pay for the design of the N.C. 54 bypass.

Learning the ins and outs of municipal government might not sound all that exciting. But enrollment in the annual citizen academy has gained momentum over the past few years, said Morrisville spokeswoman Stephanie Smith.

For the first time, all of the classes filled up this year, and the town had to cap enrollment at 30 students. The town now has a waiting list for the class.

“We’ve changed the formula of the class quite a bit over the years, which I think has helped make it easier for busy residents to take the class,” said Smith, who serves as the program coordinator. “Also, as class sizes have grown, word of mouth from graduates has helped keep the momentum for the class going.”

Butler, who has lived in Morrisville for nine years, liked the Morrisville 101 program so much last year that she signed up again.

“Before the class, I had never met the fire chief or police chief,” she said. “To have the opportunity to meet them was excellent. To meet the planners and to look at actual blueprints was excellent. ... They made it so interesting.”

During the program, participants learn about planning and inspections, parks and recreation, administration, technology and the budget through presentations and hands-on activities.

If enough residents join the waiting list, another Morrisville 101 class will be added in the spring of 2014. Residents can sign up at www.townofmorrisville.org/msv101.

“If there’s enough demand, we’d love to offer the class more than once a year,” Smith said.

Ramos: 919-460-2609

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