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Goals spark Board debate

January 20, 2011

Commissioners adopted state and federal legislative goals for Catawba County in preparation for the General Assembly's next session, which starts Wednesday.

The Board of Commissioners adopts state and federal legislative agendas annually to highlight issues important to the county and its residents.

Proposed agendas were developed in collaboration with major county agencies, including the county's three school systems, the Catawba County Chamber of Commerce, Catawba County Economic Development Corporation, Western Piedmont Council of Governments and county municipalities.

Commissioners approved state and federal goals during their meeting Tuesday night, but approval didn't come without some debate among the board.

Commissioner Randy Isenhower disagreed with one of the county's goals, which outlines the county's support of flexible local revenue options to reduce the burden on the property taxpayer.

"What it boils down to is asking for more money from citizens," Isenhower told fellow commissioners Tuesday. "I don't think now's the time."

The state legislative goal reads, "For several years, Catawba County has worked to secure flexible local revenue options. Catawba County is supportive of the philosophy that what one local government has as a local revenue option should be available to other local governments.

Flexible revenue options would result in less burden on property taxpayers and more widely disperse the financial responsibility for mandated local services to all residents, rather than just property owners."

The agenda cited, as an example, the quarter-cent sales tax approved by Catawba County voters in 2007. The tax is paid by a broader range of citizens and avoided a property tax rate increase, the agenda says.

Isenhower was alone in his opposition of the goal.

"I'm afraid that we'll paint ourselves into a corner and not have availability of funds," said commissioner Dan Hunsucker. "We never know what's going to come down three to four years from now."

Commissioner Lynn Lail said accepting the goals as they are doesn't necessarily mean the flexible revenue options will be used, and citizens must pass a referendum before anything is finalized.

Isenhower made a motion to pass an amended version of Catawba County's legislative agenda without the goal about flexible local revenue. The motion failed.

Commissioners heard a second motion to pass the state goals as they were presented. The goals passed.

Other "high-priority" goals included in the state legislative agenda are:

-Supporting changes to North Carolina's economic development tiering structure and state funding of North Carolina economic development projects.

The county's state legislative agenda says legislation should be passed to stop state funding of economic development projects that shift jobs from one part of North Carolina to another, unless the shifting prevents jobs from leaving the state.

-Supporting prohibition against collective bargaining.

According to the county's state legislative agenda, collective bargaining undermines "professional and nonpolitical atmosphere that currently resides in North Carolina's local governments."

Collective bargaining legislation for North Carolina was proposed in U.S. Senate Bill 3991.

Catawba County's federal legislative agenda includes:

-Opposing efforts to require collective bargaining;
-Supporting grant sources in the funding of regional wastewater sludge management system
-Pursuing grant sources in the funding of a wood byproduct gasification and green-energy facility
-Pursuing grant sources in the funding of a regional wastewater re-use system, which will benefit the Catawba County EcoComplex.

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