County Financial Plan Listening Session – Introduction

Thank you for coming to this meeting tonight.

Tonight’s meeting is a “listening session” for our citizens, our constituents, to speak to us about financial planning for the future of our county.

The primary job of the county commission is to adopt an annual budget so that the county can provide required and needed services and pay its bills.  In examining the budget for the past several years, steps have been taken to plan for some of our future needs, but it also become apparent that lots of items have been neglected for a very long time.  For example, routine maintenance on county properties and our school system’s physical plant has been postponed for years, and it appears as if we have attempted to solve our problems with prayer and duct tape instead of dollars spent in a timely manner.

So, the chickens are now coming home to roost.  The issues we need to address began long before any of us were commissioners.  Everyone in this room, all of you and all of us at this table, including we five commissioners, are stuck holding the same bag.  In essence, tonight we are all just the messengers.

Together, we are faced with the difficulty of attempting to fix problems neglected in the past, while trying to pay for current and future expenses.  That’s why we need a financial plan, and that’s the purpose of this meeting.

I have personally sought input from each of my fellow commissioners, members of the county administration, and others in the community.  Here is a preliminary list, in no particular order or priority, of items that will be dealt with as part of our county’s financial plan:

  1. Identify and sell unused and unneeded county property to raise funds
  2. Create list of all county buildings and facilities with assessment of physical condition specifying maintenance, repair, and upgrade needs for buildings to be safe, usable, and in compliance with applicable building codes
  3. Ask the School System to evaluate their physical plant and educational needs so that our students have the proper environment to learn and so that the quality of education of our county’s students rises to an acceptable level
  4. Establish a Facility Maintenance Fund as a specific subsection under “Fund Balance” for county buildings and facilities in which money would be put aside in a specified account on a specified regular basis to maintain, repair, or upgrade county buildings and facilities; establish a priority list for these projects to be accomplished
  5. Evaluate county employee job descriptions and salaries to increase efficiency and be able to compete with neighboring counties for quality employees
  6. Complete EMS station 4 in Marble location
  7. Complete EMS station 1 with adequate space for administrative offices for EMS, Emergency Management, and 911 Dispatch auxiliary station

We need you folks to answer a very simple question:

How do you want the county to spend your money?

Before you answer, however, consider a few important facts:

  1. The government cannot give you anything that it does not first take from someone else
  2. Current county income barely covers current county expenses
  3. If we increase county spending, we must either borrow money or raise taxes
  4. If we hold the line on taxes, we will need to adjust our spending priorities
  5. Printing money is still illegal

Here are the rules for tonight:

  1. This is a listening session only, not a debate. We will listen to your ideas without dispute or comment.  I will be taking notes for my own use.
  2. To speak, we ask that you sign in with your name, contact email (preferably), and whether you are a voter and/or property owner. We may want to contact you with questions or comments after this meeting.
  3. Each speaker will be allowed three (3) timed minutes total to state and defend his/her spending priority.
  4. If several of you want to voice the same opinion, please choose a single spokesperson to avoid unnecessary repetition.
  5. Please limit your opinions to issues that can be dealt with by this commission.
    1. All School issues must be discussed at School Board meetings
    2. All issues related to roads, sidewalks, traffic lights, etc. are handled by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. Please contact our state representatives about these issues and attend local public hearings
    3. We have no control over the US Forest Service or the National Parks Service.
  6. I expect all speakers to be treated courteously. Please listen to what they have to say without verbal comments or visible gestures whether you agree or disagree.

So, how do you want us to spend your money?  What are your priorities?