The North Carolina Association of County Commissioners has decided on a final list of priorities that the state’s counties would like to see the NC General Assembly support.
Each year, the association, made up of county commissioners and other county officials from around the state, takes requests from county Boards of Commissioners regarding the main ways state government can make life easier for the counties.
In some cases the goals are also meant to help influence federal actions.
For Guilford County, the point person is Commissioner Kay Cashion, who’s worked closely with the NCACC for years and has chaired key committees. That usually means traveling to some major NCACC events in pleasant North Carolina cities during the year – but, of course, this time around, it meant spending a lot of time in front of a computer screen in Zoom meetings.
One of the main things on the list that Guilford County leaders would like to see is a change in the law to allow language on the ballot specifying that sales tax increase proceeds would be used for education projects. Currently, local leaders state that, when trying to get voters to approve a sales tax hike in Guilford County, it hurts the chances a great deal that the ballot item isn’t legally allowed to state a funding purpose.
One big change for the conference this year, which ran from Thursday, Jan. 14 to Friday, Jan. 15, is that it was held virtually due to the pandemic. Among the numerous goals adopted were some of the usual suspects that make it on the list every year. Some of those are:
- Expanding broadband access
- More state funding for public school facilities
- Increasing efforts to preserve and expand local revenue for counties.
There were also some brand new goals due to the highly unusual nature of the year 2020, including this one: “Support legislation to create a blue-ribbon panel of experts to study, develop and implement critical mediation programs to help NC students recover from the education slide resulting from the COVID related transition to virtual learning.”
Due to the pandemic, there was also an added focus on addressing food insecurity in the state and on “strengthening North Carolina’s food ecosystem.”
Cashion said this week that two of the top five goals came out of the Tax and Finance Steering Committee that she chairs.
She said she was pleased in particular that the goal directed at changing state statute, to allow for an explanation of purpose on the quarter-cent sales tax on the ballot, was adopted. Guilford County voters have repeatedly voted down a sales tax increase over the years and many people think this change could help it pass.
“I do feel our citizens deserve to know, and to see on the ballot, the intended use of the tax increase,” Cashion said, “
She said many people have said to her that they would have voted for the sales tax hike if they had known the proceeds would go to the schools.
“Even though there was publicity, what they see in the voting booth is ‘tax increase.’ So, hopefully, since this is an Association top goal, we can get this changed.”
During the legislative agenda conference some of the NC General Assembly’s top dogs were observing and even participating, so perhaps the goals will be implemented in the coming months and years. The goals in written form are also given to the all the legislators.
County officials hope to see some of the recommendations enacted or supported in the 2021 legislative session.