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Malice in Wonderland ?

By Larry Hicks
Posted Monday, May 23, 2005

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In response to David's note on the 1% transfer tax, I don't believe this is an issue of Mike Cross raising money for power, but rather his seeking a creative way to address the impact of the County's failed policy on residential growth. And Barrett's comment about the such a fee reducing the growth in this country ... well for some, that would be a good thing. However, the evidence in county's where it is in effect actually point to growth not being stifled. We've unleashed the hounds as it were, and now need to face the facts. The budget numbers are hitting high because of school, infrastructure, and service needs brought on by the current BOC majority's policies of rampant growth.

Nearly 50% of the County's budget is for education. Mike's proposal is simply a way in which to address this issue by putting the onus on that which is impacting the budget, rather than all of us in the County. The alternative is to raise everybody's property taxes, including farmers and those who just wish to live on their land and in their homes (yes those in the west *are* impacted by growth in the east). I for one don't like seeing my taxes go up to feed this current fantasy that residential growth is economic growth.

One year later, is there a plan? No.

There *is* a better alternative to raising property taxes. It's called balanced growth through traditional economic development ... business development. But we fail in this endeavor as well, particularly the Economic Development Corporation. Our County annually funds this effort ... $170,000 in the current budget proposal. However, Tony Tucker (the Director) and his team have nothing to show for their years of effort (except maybe a couple of business opportunities which just happened to land in Chatham's lap). We continue to have opportunity lost here in Wonderland. Just check out the website ( ) There is nothing to show active or proactive effort to bring in business.

One year ago this month, May 2004, there was a summit on economic development, where Tony, the host, paraded a list of very knowledgeable and qualified speakers. All talked about the value that Chatham has to offer businesses. All noted that the rural character was the primary benefit, and that this feature had great value. All indicated, in one manner or another, that Chatham is primed for business growth, due to its proximity to the Triangle, and the potential for supporting businesses. Many noted that we needed a plan, and good execution of that plan, based upon the strengths of the community. I left that summit feeling that maybe this would be the start of something positive.

One year later, is there a plan? No.

Is there a report to the community on the EDC's efforts? No

Is there a set of goals and measures? No

Is there a budget? Yes, with the vast majority going to paying Tony's salary, office space, county vehicle, and so forth.

Can the community see the details? No

The EDC is a member of the Research Triangle Partnership, but do we have anything to show for it? No.

Where is our cut of the business development pie garnered from this relationship? Frankly, I think Chatham County is the poster child of poor economic development. We participate in name only (unless there is a report I haven't seen that indicates otherwise).

We do have the industrial park in Siler City. Finally, we are moving on this, after the election of Mike Cross and Patrick Barnes. But it is not industry that will provide a tax base. While beneficial in the sense of some employment, the hospital, juvenile center, etc. are all property tax exempt.

We can moan and complain about our taxes, or we can demand accountability. To start, the BOC should cut $170,000 from the budget. That is equivalent to taxes paid by 185 homes valued at $150K each. The EDC is clearly not showing its value. Second, the BOC should get a handle on the rampant growth. I saw that another 700 homes were approved Monday. Until we become more than a bedroom community, we can all expect to pay higher property taxes.

Rule of the Hole - when you find yourself in one, stop digging.

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