Can you hear me now?

Now maybe the county commissioners will listen to their constituents. Nearly 45 percent of registered voters cast ballots in yesterday’s election, an “off” year devoted mainly to local races and local issues.

According to the election results reported on the Orange County website, precincts in the rural sections of the county were among those with the highest turnout, as did many precincts in and around Chapel Hill. The precincts with the lowest turnout clustered around the university and are some of the oldest neighborhoods in town.

I’m convinced that what drove people to the polls was the proposed sales tax increase. Not so much the extra $30 or $40 a year the quarter-cent hike would cost the average shopper, but the idea that the commissioners’ default mode in a budget shortfall was to milk more from taxpayers rather than see what could be trimmed from expenses. Many of us hit hard by the recession are making painful choices of what to do without. We expect at least a cursory effort along that line from our elected officials.

I still recall the supporter of the library bond who spoke at a Town Council meeting earlier this year downplaying the cost to taxpayers of taking on all that extra debt. He said that residents need only give up one latte a week to pay the increased tax burden to add a coffee shop and gift shop to the existing library. I don’t know what galled me more – that he expected me to give up my coffee in order that he not have to make a separate stop to enjoy his at the library, or that he was clueless about residents who don’t have such luxuries as lattes in their budget at all.

Voters yesterday defeated the proposed sales tax hike. Not only was I pleased with that result, but the voter turnout did my cynical heart good. Your vote can make a difference.
– Nancy Oates

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  1. Steve Brown

     /  November 3, 2010

    The BOCC hasn’t followed the will of the people in the past, why should they now? They will just raise our property taxes. Grab your ankles, taxpayers!

  2. Terri Buckner

     /  November 3, 2010

    What do you mean they haven’t followed the will of the people? The same individuals have been reelected for years. That means the majority of residents approve of their actions.

    The only reason property taxes will be raised is to meet the budget requirements of the county. I’d really like for someone to intelligently outline where they see wasteful spending of a large enough portion that it would turn the budget situation around. Are you ready to cut back on school spending? How about public safety (police and EMS)? Since those two services consume the majority of the budget, those are where the changes will have to take place.

  3. Steve Brown

     /  November 3, 2010

    Last time, the real estate transfer tax was voted down. At the time, the County had an option between that and the sales tax.
    They ignored the fact that the transfer tax was defeated and spent $40k in tax money to “educate” us about the sales tax. Like a spoiled brat, they are not going to do without what they want.
    Since this county is overpopulated with progressive sheep who will vote for anything democratic, the likelihood of anyone “outside” getting elected is very close to zero. So, getting reelected doesn’t mean much. Why did Jacobs only get 30k votes running unopposed if 50k people voted? I for one did not vote for either commissioner.

    It is not my job as a taxpayer to manage the County’s budget. If they had competent leadership then the County staff would generate a list of cuts and the Board would make the decisions.

    That said, any school system that can afford to pay for a “Chinese Immersion Program” or multiple levels of advanced placement courses, etc etc is hardly what a reasonable person would consider to be in financial distress.

  4. Mark Marcoplos

     /  November 3, 2010

    We need to realize that we do not live in a bubble. Huge amounts of money are being siphoned out of Orange County to pay for wars that gain the citizens nothing and mainly serve to enrich war profiteers. We know where our hard-earned money is going – about $2600 per citizen ((about $350 million annually) leaves our pockets to fund the military – a military that is bigger than all the rest of the world’s militaries combined.

  5. Duncan O'Malley

     /  November 3, 2010

    Does anyone know whether the Chapel Hill town council is rethinking the library addition now that the county has announced plans for a new library in Carrboro?

  6. Really Duncan, “Chapel Hill Town Council” and “think” in the same sentence? you must be joking.

  7. Geoff Green

     /  November 3, 2010

    James, you should run for Town Council! You apparently would do a much better job, because they don’t “think.”

    No one has commented on the great voter turnout for an off-year election. Something to be proud of — though, of course, something has to be done about those youngins who refuse to take their franchise seriously.

  8. Steve Brown

     /  November 3, 2010

    Duncan, this will never happen. Chapel Hill MUST have a coffee shop and gift shop in its library. Cost is no object.

  9. Mike Kelley

     /  November 3, 2010

    Steve, How much do you think it costs to have a Chinese Dual Language program or an AP course? Both are designed to be load bearing so no additional personnel costs (dual language programs actually save personnel costs because non-English speakers in the programs do not receive English as a Second Language instruction). Both have some instructional supplies costs, which are modest. Eliminating these would do little to reduce the schools’ budget. Both enhance the educational opportunities for Chapel Hill-Carrboro children.

  10. Thank you Mike for commenting. I agree that we should be looking to manage costs in other areas of the budget. Terri brought up the long standing issue of budgeting appropriately for facility maintenance. It seems like every year I see that both BOEs have to reshuffle CIPs and request new monies to accommodate long standing maintenance issues. Tomorrow, in fact, the BOCC is looking at issuing just shortof $10M is qualified school construction bonds (QSCBs) – split $4.6M for Chapel Hill/Carrboro and $5.6M for the County – to be used for this purpose.

    The QCSBs, incidentally, were already slated to be discussed and are not related to the failure to pass the sales tax referendum (by the way, given that the bond costs come in over $700k per year, that $1M allocation of sales taxes wouldn’t have gone far for new projects).

    Mike, given the probable shift in national and state allocations, how does the BOE plan to address the maintenance issues Terri keeps bringing up?

  11. Steve brown

     /  November 4, 2010

    Mr. Kelly-with an attitude like yours it is no wonder school costs are so high. What you are trying to get me to believe is that the chinese immersion classes don’t cost anything?

    That is completely laughable, and sad at the same time. There is no hope for cost cutting when everything is viewed as “critical”.

  12. Terri Buckner

     /  November 4, 2010

    Thanks for adding real information to the conversation Mike. I’m sure anyone who is really interested in economics and/or education knows that Mandarin Chinese has been identified as one of the most useful languages to learn for anyone interested in business and technology. It’s good to know students from CHCCS have the opportunity to learn young when language acquisition is most natural.

  13. Steve brown

     /  November 4, 2010


  14. County Commissioners still don’t get it. Commissioner Steve Yuhasz is quoted in the Daily Tar Heel as saying the sales tax failed because there is no internet in rural areas of the county and thus rural folks could not be educated as to the benefits of a tax increase.

  15. Duncan O'Malley

     /  November 6, 2010

    Ever heard of Propositon two-and-a-half?

    This is what we need for Orange County:

  16. Steve brown

     /  November 7, 2010

    No, Duncan. The board needs more money like I need another pair of buttocks. A plan like that one would guarantee an “ever-widening” government if you get the picture.

    It is past time for them to cut,cut,cut!