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Cabarrus County, North Carolina leaders discuss possible effects of legislation

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    County officials from across the state adopted their top five goals during N.C. Association of County Commissioners’ 2013 Legislative Goals Conference in January. Elected leaders from each of the state’s 100 counties approved several goals and created a sample resolution in support of the NCACC’s legislative agenda that can be modified from county to county.

    • Details: bit.ly/16HhX9Y or www.ncacc.org.



The N.C. Association of County Commissioners’ top goal this year is to stop legislation that would shift to counties the state’s responsibility for funding transportation construction and maintenance projects.

Cabarrus County commissioners, county staff members and local legislators discussed the county’s concerns during a two-hour “Meeting in a Box” March 18 in downtown Concord.

N.C. Reps. Carl Ford, R-Rowan; Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus; and N.C. Sen. Fletcher Hartsell Jr., R-Cabarrus; discussed legislation surrounding agricultural and environmental concerns, health and human services, intergovernmental relations, justice and public safety, tax reform and public education.

Megan Smit, the clerk to the board who helped arrange the meeting, said its purpose was to communicate county issues and needs to the county’s legislative delegation – those elected officials who represent Cabarrus residents in the General Assembly.

“I think the story that can come out of this meeting is, more or less, keeping government local in the respect that state government is actively influenced by local government, and that the voter is not so far removed from the process, as is often portrayed,” said Smit.

Selecting top 5 goals

At its district meeting in April, the association will discuss feedback from the meetings and come up with a strategic approach to successfully advocate its stances.

Jay White, the county’s liaison to the association, helped compile and rank a list of goals recommended by dozens of commissioners across the state. He said a meeting like this happens every year; this was the seventh one he has attended.

White said the association chipped away at thousands of suggestions to make a top-five list of goals on which leaders statewide agreed.

“Our discussion was, we can give them 50 pages of ideas and concerns; but if we’re not consistent with our message and our needs, then it will get blurred,” said White.

In the past, such meetings have garnered enough unified opposition to stop certain bills and enough support to pass others, said White.

“When I look at the top five goals, I’d be very surprised if the state shifts transportation responsibilities to the counties,” said White. “I’m hopeful. And the reason I’m hopeful is our legislative delegates are willing to sit down and listen to our concerns. If the other side is willing to listen and understand where you’re coming from, that’s half the battle.”

Cabarrus County Manager Mike Downs wanted state leaders to address potential effects certain legislation could have on the county level.

“They got to review with us, but it also gave us the opportunity to enlighten them on what’s going on in the county and what we feel would be the potential impacts from our side, should some of bills being presented pass and become a reality,” said Downs.

“As the federal and state governments try to tackle and take on the task of balancing their budgets,” Downs said, “we hope that they will not have to send down any unfunded mandates or programs that would result in the county’s expenses going up.”

Burden on property taxpayers

If the county’s expenses go up, it’s likely the property tax will, too, said Downs. The county is definitely opposed to shifting the state’s transportation responsibilities to the county, he said, “simply because we’re not set up for that right now.

“Counties typically don’t maintain streets and roads and that type of infrastructure. Therefore, we don’t have the equipment or the personnel to even do it. If they’re passing that on to us without revenues, it would really be a financial impact on us.”

Downs said state legislators face a huge challenge.

“As they work through the process, we know there is going to be some impacts,” he said. “We just want to make sure that, when they’re making those decisions on the state level, … they do take into account what those impacts could be on local governments, and minimize those as much as possible.

“The only opportunity we have right now to raise revenue is to raise property taxes, and that has a huge impact on every one of our residents.”

Downs also recommended that people contact elected officials personally.

“… Take that opportunity to make sure your opinions or concerns are heard,” he said. “Give them a call; send them an email. And don’t think that doesn’t matter, because it truly does.”

Johnson: 704-786-2185
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