The N.C. Association of County Commissioners top goal this year is to stop legislation that would shift to counties the states responsibility for funding transportation construction and maintenance projects.
Cabarrus County commissioners, county staff members and local legislators discussed the countys 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 countys 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 countys 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 were 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, Id be very surprised if the state shifts transportation responsibilities to the counties, said White. Im hopeful. And the reason Im 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 youre coming from, thats 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 whats 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 countys expenses going up.
Burden on property taxpayers
If the countys expenses go up, its likely the property tax will, too, said Downs. The county is definitely opposed to shifting the states transportation responsibilities to the county, he said, simply because were not set up for that right now.
Counties typically dont maintain streets and roads and that type of infrastructure. Therefore, we dont have the equipment or the personnel to even do it. If theyre 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 theyre 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 dont think that doesnt matter, because it truly does.
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