04/14/09 — Town, city officials slam state and county

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Town, city officials slam state and county

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on April 14, 2009 1:47 PM

Concerns over annexation and frustration with the Wayne County School Board fueled the discussion between Goldsboro and Mount Olive officials Monday night at the second joint meeting of the two municipal councils.

Goldsboro Mayor Al King and Mount Olive Mayor Ray McDonald Sr. both disagreed with the basis for the bills introduced by Rep. Efton Sager, D-Wayne and Sen. David Rouzer, R-Johnston, that would de-annex the Buck Swamp and Falling Brook areas.

Residents of the two neighborhoods fought forced annexation for years but lost their court battle due to state law that permits such annexations by municipalities.

"My contention is, if that's what they're going to base it on, a petition, then we need to get one," McDonald said.

He could understand the legislators' position, but that there is another side to the annexation issue, he said.

"We need to show them there's a lot more for it," McDonald said.

People in areas annexed by Goldsboro often say after the fact that they were glad for the annexation, King said, but are hesitant to speak up.

"If they're concerned about the numbers who've signed a petition, they're playing with a short deck here, because we have a heck of a lot more people than they have," he said.

Taxes are at the heart of the issue, King said.

"Some of these people who are speaking against annexation, they don't want to pay two taxes," he said. "We pay two taxes, and we need to remind people that we already pay two taxes."

"Throw this idea out there if you are that determined to annex. You pay county tax and the county government takes care of what it takes care of, and the city, we take care of what we take care of. The opposition is not going to like that because it means their taxes are going to go up, and it should. Right now, we're subsidizing their tax."

Local officials should let citizens know that the city has a stake in annexation, too, King said.

People ask him why Goldsboro can't get an Olive Garden, Red Lobster or Home Depot, and the answer is population, he said.

"It's about population. If they see and believe that we have a good chance of being successful, they will come," King said. "All of them are at least looking. One day we could have an Olive Garden."

But annexation is key to population growth, he added.

McDonald agreed and said the current tax arrangement puts pressure on people who live in the cities.

"We subsidize the county taxes so they don't have to pay as much," McDonald said. "But if you take it and pro-rate it down, we could probably cut county taxes a third or more."

The officials also talked about current issues facing the county school system.

"Quite frankly, I'm frustrated with the school system. We talk and they talk and I can see no progress," King said.

To a great extent, school systems fall under quality of life issues and can have a big impact on economic development, he said.

Council members also expressed concerns about the schools.

"I think we need in some way to get this situation resolved," said Goldsboro Council Member Bob Waller. "To me, that is number one."

County commissioner Jack Best's ideas about the school system have some worth, McDonald said. Best has been especially critical of school board decisions. Best said recently that administrative staff should be reassigned and moved into the classrooms to help teachers.

"We let Jack get out on a limb by himself, but if you read what Jack says, he's not too far from being right," McDonald said.

McDonald proposed that the two city councils, the school board and the county commissioners sit down and discuss the current concerns with the schools.

"Until they come up with some kind of plan, we don't know what the answer is," he said.

"I don't know what the answer is, don't have a clue," King said.

King said he is interested in pursuing a joint meeting between the Goldsboro and Mount Olive councils, the county commissioners and the county Board of Education to discuss the school situation.

"What we want to do is help, and if we can, we will," King said.