Published: Jun 27, 2012 11:11 AM
Modified: Jun 27, 2012 11:12 AM
Gerald Holleman: Fiscal responsibility needed in Holly Springs budget
On June 29, the Holly Springs Town Council is poised to vote on the annual budget. Let us hope that council members will be fiscally responsible and gratified to be leading a municipality that is able to propose spending increases rather than being asked to do more with less. Though voters passed a bond referendum to cover projects for parks and recreation, the margin for approval was not profound. Clearly 40 percent of voters did not support the referendum because they believed it would result in a tax increase. At least some of the 60 percent voted in faith that the council would keep its promise not to raise taxes. However respecting the values that made the community attractive, viable parks and recreation are important in measuring quality of life, and we must move forward.Holly Springs has a demographic of 8000 residents under the age of 18. Existing park and recreation facilities are designed to accommodate 1000. According to Councilman Chet Van Fossen, we are about $40 million behind in projects to serve recreational needs because of past concerns that outweighed the benefits of providing soccer fields, basketball courts, football equipment and the like. Similar projects may be apparent in the proposed budget. Perhaps the council might reassess a few priorities.For instance, one line item for $250,000 proposes building a pedestrian bridge at Bass Lake. Another targets $300,000 for a design plan for a building to house the town’s police force. Nowhere have I seen projections for the cost of the building, but someone wants a plan – at a cost of $300,000. Are these projects fiscally responsible when we are asking at least 40 percent of voters, who do not want a tax increase, to foot the bill? How well does either expenditure address the immediate need of families for practical recreational facilities? As lovely as a foot bridge may be, rambunctious adolescents will not get their needs met by romping across it. And while a few adults will gain satisfaction from looking at a lovely building, it will not deter one criminal. Are these the kinds of projects that previously outweighed development of parks and recreation? Are they needed urgently enough to force voters who could be cash-strapped to pay for them now? Scrutiny of the budget reveals other examples, but these are the most egregious. The two councilwomen already are wisely dubious about a budget that calls for increased taxation. Let us hope others follow their prudence.According to N.C. Treasurer data, Holly Springs’ debt is among the highest of any state municipality of its size. Its per capita taxes and expenses are also high. A look at comparative salaries reveals similar patterns in that area too. Before you burden citizens with additional taxes, I urge council members to work more effectively with what we have. Just because you can get the money doesn’t mean you have to.Gerald Holleman is a former mayor of Holly Springs.
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