At noon today I attended a seminar on the economics of town development. The speakers were sponsored by the town, county and chamber of commerce. The argument they presented was that most suburban development both residential and commercial require a very long time to pay back the costs of maintaining the initial infrastructure much less the general government cost of services. They analyzed the tax value/acre of land of various properties in town. Multiple store buildings create the greatest value although the Spotted Dog also was high in their calculations. Box stores like Walmart rated relatively low on their scale. Implied by their presentation is that the cost benefit formulas used for residential, commercial and industrial are misleading. By the way the title of their talk: Dollars and Sense is a name of a magazine I've subscribed to for years.
Last night, the County Commissioners did a pretty good job of displaying why it has been so easy, maybe even necessary, for the County Manager to be such a policy leader. Fortunately, I did see Barry Jacobs really step up and push the board forward on transit. I think he'll be even more effective when joined by 2 or 3 new allies after the general election.
Big items on the agenda included delaying property revaluation, reappointing the defunct Economic Development Commission, and approving a long-awaited transit plan. They managed to do all three, but not without some kicking and screaming. See my live tweetage and other responses on Storify and below.
Well the Transit Tax for Orange may have some added poison. I say poison as for the Proponents of the Transit Tax for the Light Rail will not want an added sales tax Governor Bev Purdue has cast into the political winds this year. Outside the overwhelming distaste for more taxes by District Two, the poison for D1 is not notion of paying more tax for their costly train, it is the added threat to fuel to the fire in the pockets of D2 Citizens who have no use for a Choo Choo in a huge election year.
Durham's 60% to 40% margin for the 1/2 percent transit sales tax eclipsed Mecklenburg's 58-42 margin on its initial vote on the same issue in 1998. In 2012, the two allowed dates for a similar referendum are the primary (currently scheduled for May) and the November general election. Putting the issue on the ballot will involve approval by the Orange County Commissioners, the Durham-Chapel Hill Carrboro MPO, the Burlington-Alamance MPO, and the Triangle Transit Board.
With the month of May coming, it time for flowers to bloom and for our school district to trim resources. Every year when this happens I appreciate the flowers and figure there has to be a better way to fund our schools. Below is the text of a letter I send to Representative Insko with copy to County Commissioner Alice Gordon. There has to be a better approach that what we have now. Thoughts and comments are appreciated.
Via e-mail from the County:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Release Date: March 1, 2011
Contact: Frank Clifton, Orange County Manager, (919) 245-2300 or Michael Talbert, Deputy Financial Services Director, (919) 245-2153
Orange County Public Hearing on 1/4 Cent Sales Tax
HILLSBOROUGH, NC –The Orange County Board of Commissioners will hold a Public Hearing on Tuesday, March 15, 2011 during its regularly scheduled meeting at the Southern Human Services Center, 2501 Homestead Road in Chapel Hill. The meeting starts at 7:00 p.m.
The Public Hearing will provide an opportunity for the public to comment on a potential November 8, 2011 referendum on a one-quarter cent (1/4¢) additional sales tax in Orange County.
For better or worse, Orange County voters have rejected two different proposals for raising more money for county government. And yet, I don't hear anyone seriously calling for shutting down any of the vital services offered by the county. They're going to have to find some slack somewhere, so perhaps we can help.
Please vote for your top three recommendations for how to balance the county budget. If you don't see your preference, just write-in an option and it will be added to the poll.
It may be hard to think of a tax increase as "justice," but Orange County has an example of just that in its proposal on the November ballot to raise the sales tax by one-quarter cent. A portion of the revenue if this wins approval will go toward providing a solution for Habitat for Humanity homeowners in Efland (many of whose homes were built by our member churches), who have been facing a 300 percent increase in their sewer rates. Justice United agrees that this tax increase, which means paying 25 cents more per every $100 you spend, equals social justice.
We will gather at 9:30am at United Church. After a brief press conference with our partner groups, we will walk over to the Seymour Center to cast our votes.