Lee County leaders aim to reduce debt, taxes in 2013

Jan. 13, 2013 @ 05:01 AM

Putting Lee County on a prosperous financial path is the board of commissioners’ main goal for 2013, according to Chairman Charlie Parks.

With the government on solid economic footing, the county will no longer have to scrimp and save while providing beneficial services for citizens, he said.

The primary objective for the board of commissioners should be reducing the taxes of the county residents and paying off the county’s debt, according to Parks.

“Because of unemployment, and what we see coming down the road in terms of taxes, one of our first priorities is to see if we can reduce our taxes,” he said.  

For county staff and Lee County Manager John Crumpton, the focus will be getting the commissioners well versed on county matters. With the exception of long-time Commissioner Robert Reives, the average tenure of the board members is around one year, Crumpton said. 

“We will be trying to get the commissioners up to speed on the issues, what is coming up in the General Assembly, and we will be spending time helping the commissioners understand what we do and how we can go forward,” he said.

With the shift in the board’s dynamics — conservative Republicans now have a 4-to-3 majority after November’s election — the staff will be focused on the board’s goals and objectives, Crumpton said.

One of those goals, Parks said, is lowering the county debt including postponing capital projects.

“What we are calling for, instead of new capital, is asking (Central Carolina Community College) and the Lee County Board of Education to do space-needs assessments,” he said. “Then we can make a decision on what needs to be done.”

Once the priorities are determined, the county can plan the steps to financing the needs, Parks said.

The county will look to audits, including the Evergreen Solutions Audit, for additional cuts, and will be considering what the property tax rate revaluation will mean for the county in terms of potential savings, Parks said.

He’d also like the county’s relationship with the City of Sanford and Town of Broadway to become more positive.

“I think we have something at stake here,” Parks said. “And in the past year or so, all we have [gotten] is really stonewalled on trying to improve overall costs for everybody. So I want to see more positive communication.”

Relationships have been strained between the county and the municipalities after the board’s failed attempt to change the sales tax redistribution last spring — with promises to vote again on the subject this year — and a recent county vote to end several interlocal governmental agreements.

It’s difficult for people who’ve had their way for many years to change, Parks said, and the three boards will need to work together to determine a course of action that benefits all the residents.

“We are responsible for everyone,” Parks said. “We don’t care where they live. We want to make sure everybody has the opportunity to improve their situation and not just one or the other.”

If people are able to improve their financial situations and the economy improves, fewer people will resort to crime, said Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter, and the county’s crime rates will improve.

“I definitely want to get our crime numbers and crime rate down,” Carter said. “That is always a concern of ours for the new year, and we want to do our part to reduce that.”

During prosperous economic times, people are happier and tend to make better decisions when it comes to crime, he said. Another factor is getting the community involved in crime prevention.

“I believe getting the community support in that endeavor, and I want to encourage folks to call if they need us,” Carter said.