11/01/12 — Bell: Cash right way to fund growth

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Bell: Cash right way to fund growth

By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 1, 2012 1:46 PM

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John Bell

The News-Argus posed three questions to candidates for the Wayne County Board of Commissioners. Following are the responses of District 3 Commissioner John Bell, a Democrat, who is unopposed in his re-election bid.

1. The budget is perhaps the biggest duty a commissioner has. What is your assessment of the current budget and tax rate? What are your budget goals and ideas?

The budget is one of the most important parts of a county commissioner's duties, especially when it comes to the citizens of Wayne County trying to maintain a fair rate on the property taxes, and, at the same time, produce enough income that we can meet the needs of the county such as schools, rescue, Sheriff's Office, all of the 25 departments that we have within county government.

We try to budget where we will have enough income to meet the needs of all departments and the citizens of Wayne County, without having to go into the red and prematurely have to raise taxes, which we have never done since I have been on the board, in between revaluation.

My budget goals would be to maintain enough fund balance where we can pay for things in cash when there is a need such as the recent remodeling of the jail, buying the Senior Center and paying for that with cash. We are getting a complete new facility that we did not have to finance. That by itself saves the taxpayers many, many, many dollars without having to pay that interest rate on money that we borrow.

Another thing is the veterans center, that we also paid for with cash. It is a beautiful building that is second to none of any veterans services organizations in eastern North Carolina. All of the veterans, and I am a veteran myself, should feel proud that they have nice, decent facility where they can go and transact their business.

2. The county has been able to pay cash for recent facilities projects. What are the remaining facilities needs, including schools, and how would you pay for them?

One of the things is that the position we are in right now, a lot of the school needs that we have, without borrowing money we can use a combination of resources like the lottery funds, sales tax and other that would make it possible to make a substantial payment as we did on the two schools we are building right now, Norwayne and Eastern Wayne middle schools. Those are two projects that will almost be like brand-new schools when they are complete.

The citizens should feel proud that we have a conservative type commission that doesn't overspend and doesn't overtax. We are in pretty good shape.

3. What would be your goals and objectives as commissioner?

Some of my goals would be to look at some of the school needs, such as new schools. Where they want them, and where they need them. Maybe sometime in 2013 we float a bond if that is what the people want, and try to get these schools up and running. Maybe I shouldn't say a location because I don't want to dictate to the schools system.

As long as the citizens of Wayne County feel there is a need, and are willing to vote for that and pay for that, I don't have any problem at all floating a bond so that we can get the facilities that the schools need.

That includes remodeling some of the schools that need serious repairs such as roofing and things of that nature.

I still want to maintain a fair tax rate, not raise taxes at all unless we absolutely necessarily have to. So far I don't see where that is going to be a need right now. Our county manager has done an outstanding job maintaining a good balance when it comes to spending and what we gain from our ad valorem taxes. He know show to manage a budget. I think that is plus for Wayne County.