Challenge current, future commissioners to be fiscally conservative

Published 3:50 pm Tuesday, March 1, 2016

These are some comments that I intended to make at the Feb. 8, 2016, BOC meeting, but I was unable to attend:

According to the Tryon Daily Bulletin, our county’s population has grown eight percent since 2006, nine years; yet, during this same period our county employees have increased by an astounding 18 percent. (School system is Polk’s top employer for 2015, published Jan. 1, 2016, and Polk population grows by 1,500 over last decade, Jan. 7, 2016).

This is alarming. It’s surprising to note that most of this growth in our county government has occurred in the last three years with a Republican majority controlling our Board of Commissioners.

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On another matter, prior to January of 2006, Polk County’s financial health was relatively poor; but, in January of 2006, our county was bailed out…all the buyers who had put up letters of credit with Bright’s Creek were required to purchase their lots. $90 million in real estate sales went onto the county’s tax roll. Since that time Polk County’s tax revenue has increased by roughly $470,000 each year, totaling over $4 million since 2006.

Although we have been fortunate to have had a financial surplus since 2006, our commissioners have chosen to spend the surplus on the purchase of Lake Adger with its aging dam, on the construction of a county-wide water system, and on more county employees.

Additional capital has been spent on the DSS building, the tag office, the early college building and the Senior Center. Our rural county will never be able to cover the expenses of a countywide water system through user fees. Taxes will of necessity be increased on all of us to cover these expenses, even though most of us are perfectly happy with our existing wells.

We are now faced with replacing the jail, repairing the Lake Adger dam, and dredging the silt from the lake; the estimates for these projects are running $12.3-$18.5 million according to the Bulletin. Although there is now talk of selling the lake and the dam, it may not be in our best interest at this point, since the issues with the lake and the dam have been well publicized.

I challenge our current Board of Commissioners and future candidates to be fiscal conservatives, to pledge to live within their budget, no longer drawing from the “fund balance” each year to balance the budget.

I also challenge them to end the political divisiveness that has been so evident over the last several years, to find some common ground, and respect each other’s views.

One last comment. I was sorely disappointed that our Commissioners chose not to reappoint Lisa Krolak to the Planning Board. I have worked with Lisa on the Planning Board for many years. Her contribution to the Board has been exceptional. We did not always agree, often at opposite ends politically, but we would always dialogue, have respect for each other’s views, and in the end make decisions that we thought were best for the county. Lisa is my friend; her presence and critical thinking will be greatly missed by me and the other members of the Planning Board.

Bill Ennis
Mill Spring, N.C.