The reviews are in from former Republican county commissioners regarding recent move by the new Democratic-run board, and those reviews aren’t good at all.
Former Commissioners Jeff Phillips and Alan Branson stated essentially this week that, under the new governance, Guilford County is going to hell in a handbasket – and, they add, the current Democratic board is undoing eight straight years of fiscal responsibility that the Republicans helped establish and preserve.
The Guilford County Board of Commissioners was under the control of a Republican majority from December 2012 until December 2020 – after the 2020 election ousted Branson and failed to elect any new Republicans to the board.
The new criticism from Branson and Philips came after the board voted 7-to-2 to give High Point $7 million over the next 20 years for any downtown development project High Point wants to spend the money on.
Phillips, who surprised many last year when he decided not to run to hold his seat on the Board of Commissioners, said this week that it didn’t take long for the board led by Chairman Skip Alston to start wreaking havoc on the county budget.
“Except for the remaining Republicans on the Board of Commissioners,” Phillips said, “any semblance of business sense has left the building. I have nothing against High Point’s interest in revitalizing their downtown, but tax-increment financing is a poorly conceived pie-in-the-sky shell game that sounds peachy on the surface – but always results in citizens picking up the shortfall in the long run. And there’s always a shortfall.”
He added that there have been other very irresponsible financial moves by the new board.
“It’s one more bad decision that will, unfortunately, be followed by many more in the coming months,” Phillips said. “So, hold on to your property tax wallets ’cause political favors are going to rule the day, and inexperienced spendthrifts with little to no business-sense are holding the keys to the taxpayer’s kingdom in Guilford County. Batter up!”
That baseball reference is due to the fact that High Point built a new stadium as the centerpiece of its downtown revitalization effort.
Branson, who also said the High Point incentive vote was the result of a political deal made last year rather than a reasoned decision, said it was an offense to taxpayers all across the county.
Branson also railed against the 7-to-2 vote on his Facebook page, citing the fact that there were no guidelines as to how the money for downtown development should be used. High Point can use the money on any downtown development project under the sun.
“Every economic development incentive that I have been involved in the last 8 years have had some meat on the bones,” Branson posted. “This is a feel-good opportunity and I do hope it succeeds, but the citizens of Guilford County should not be burdened with this financial hardship and debt.”
Branson also called the new Democratic commissioners on the board Alston’s “puppets.” Branson has called them that before as well.
The Rhino Times didn’t speak with former Republican Commissioner Hank Henning for this article. But Henning, who like Phillips chose not to run last year, was the board’s most vocal critic of the proposal for the county to provide money for High Point’s downtown development before he left the board in early December.