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Don't stop the growth - plan the growth

By Kathie L. Russell
Posted Wednesday, August 9, 2006

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Pittsboro, NC - The assumption that increased tax base from residential developments will help public schools is incorrect. In fact, increased residential development puts an additional burden upon public schools, because residential taxes are not enough to cover all basic services - much less to make any improvements.

Any basic college course in urban planning teaches "storefronts before roof tops" - meaning, what is needed to fund and improve government services is revenue from industrial or business tax sources. That, I think, is the point Efrain and John are making. Don't stop the growth - plan the growth, and a critical part of that plan is to attract the right sorts of industry that will bring in the tax base necessary to support the residential growth. The key is the right type of industry - because industries with low wage jobs do not benefit the tax base, either.

So in essence, Steve and Efrain and John are in agreement. Schools and other basic services need to be improved. Steve is just under the very common misconception that residential taxes will provide that. You don't have to take my word for it - county budgets, income and expenditures, are available for public review.

Chatham clearly needs good jobs and a good business tax base in order to support all the residential growth we are about to experience. Otherwise, we will end up like Wake County - overcrowded schools, rampant redistricting (want to see your 3 kids in 3 different schools? it is
happening in Wake), and all the other attendant problems.

Besides schools, folks often don't stop to consider the increased funding that will be required for other government services. Take, for example, the Chatham County Register of Deeds, or Clerk of Court, or Tax Office. As the residential growth occurs, these folks will outgrow their offices in very short time.

Ever been to the Wake County Register of Deeds? It is a huge building with a massive staff. Chatham County? Small office with six or seven staff. You have to factor in the increased cost in personnel, new building, new systems to accomodate the increased is mind boggling if you start to figure it out and then think about all the myriad government services that will be similarly affected. I picked the courthouse example because it is what I deal with every day.

Whether you prefer the small or the large doesn't matter, the fact is that the funding required to accomodate residential growth is huge - in exchange for a relatively small addition to income from taxes.

Industry, on the other hand, requrires much less in the way of services in relation to the amount by which the tax base is increased.

So Steve's opinion is not all that far off from those he labels liberals, since they all agree that we need to improve services. I don't take Efrain or John's posts as fear tactics. Nor do I think they are against capitalism.

I, myself, make my living from growth, as do others I know who agree with John and Efrain. But we understand that growth still can occur, that we all can still profit, without pillaging the county coffers. Responsible development is what in needed. It is NOT what we have gotten from Bunkey and crew.

That's the difference. Maybe everyone is simply not speaking a common language, but once the facts are understood about how growth must be funded, I think Steve would actually agree. I encourage anyone who thinks that residential growth will support or improve services such as schools to get the real facts.

Then - heaven forbid - we might all be on the same page. Or at least in the same book.

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