Friday, October 12, 2012 —
The Candidate Forum, sponsored by The Stanly County Chamber of Commerce, The Stanly News & Press, 1010 AM WSPC and Stanly Community College, allowed candidates for local, state and national races the opportunity to express their thoughts on a range of topics.
The following question and answer session is taken from Wednesday night’s forum as transcribed by SNAP Staff Writers Justin Jones, Ian Faulkner and Brian Graves.
More from this forum will appear in Sunday’s edition of the SNAP and on www.thesnaponline.com
Q: What improvements can be made in current school system budget?
Jimmy Schneider (D5):
Dealing with budget cuts, we’re going to continue to look at declining income to the school system.
The one thing that we can’t do, we have to make sure we do not affect academics itself.
We need to work with the finance director, work with the superintendent, work with the central office staff to make sure we create a budget that will ensure that we do not affect academics and that everything is fair across the board in all the schools.
School funding continues to be cut in each elementary school, middle school. It’s time that we improve operating efficiencies.
Mike Barbee (D5):
Well I think first of all, we got to be good stewards of taxpayer money.
And the fact that in the past, we’ve acted too hastily to make decisions that’s cost us money. We didn’t sit down and look through, take the time to research a lot of the problems that popped up on us ... transportation cost, parking lot repairs, lockers, mobile units. All this was not taken into consideration when a lot of the changes were made.
We got to be better stewards of the taxpayer’s money.
The teachers have been taking the biggest brunt of this and that affects our kids in the long run when you cut the teachers and you’re going to affect the kids in the longterm.
So we got to make sure they get a good education, while looking after those teachers.
We’ve had four schools close down in the last four years, and we need to look at what we’re doing there.
Because closing a school is not really a savings of money. It’s just a nicer way to say we’re going to cut jobs.
Tracy Lowder (D4):
I look at it as our budget at home. We have to look at what we have coming in.
And like Mr. Barbee said if we’re not being good stewards of our money, that our state, county and local government are so graciously giving us, and we have monies that are being wasted, I don’t consider that a good steward.
It’s just not good.
The budget is probably the top priority because it should really be taken, where our academics go first.
Our kids are first.
Tim Smith (D3)
While considering budget cuts, the thing we got to make sure of as a county is that we don’t lose focus on what this system is about, and that is educating kids.
Because they are our present and also our future.
There are ways for us to be innovative in budget cuts, and, for example, I have an idea.
One of the ways would be like in the form of communication.
For example, there’s a lot of new technology available to us like Magic Jack.
If we purchased iPads for our administrators, say 34 that would be a total of $14,000. Purchase the Magic Jack package for a year, that’s $20 (each). That comes up to like $680.
For an initial cost of about $1,500 [Editor’s Note: This is his actual total commented.], that would (provide) the instruments for our administrators to evaluate teachers, communicate with one another and do a ton of things they do on a daily basis.
And the extending cost would only be a $680, that would be a flat rate.
Angela Mills (D 3)
I don’t know that there are any easy answers in what can be done.
There has been declining I think our administrators have done a good job of looking everywhere possible to make the possible cuts.
Personnel accounts for 80 percent of our budget. And with attrition, thank goodness teachers didn’t have to be laid off, but schools are still affected because they didn’t get to replace all of those people.
Because personnel takes up 80 percent of the budget.
And we talk about not cutting teachers but that’s where it’s going to have to happen unless our community can come up with better ways of funding our schools, and getting more money back in there because with the state and federal, we’re being cut.
Our school system has no independent way of raising funds on its own, so our community is going to have to decide this.
Ron Crawley (D2)
Putting together a budget for any organization can be rather strenuous, especially when you don’t know how much money is coming down from the top to support it.
As Dr. Mills said, there is no way to raise money by the local board.
Let me give you this figure, then you’ll see why we have to really be careful when we say we’re going to cut this, and cut that.
A recent study in North Carolina said that, and this is statewide, 46 percent of the people want to decrease the taxes on education, 43 percent feel its good. So you got a split, what do you do?
Local taxes, 49 percent of people say decrease, 35 percent say increase.
To further complicate that then we go to the other side, and 66 percent of the people found in this North Carolina study say that funding is too low. So do you raise taxes?
Well, now we’re getting into a problem area. But in the budget system itself, I plan to look at it with an open mind, and consider what places may or not be cut, and if it’s necessary, then we’ll do that.
John Boing (D 2)
We’ve all had tough times in the economy now. We’ve all had to be tight with our expenses, but now it’s affecting our school systems.
That being said, there are many financial challenges ahead for the school district.
I want to help conquer these challenges.
I’m no financial director or financial advisor, so I’m not sure. I’ll have to look at all the information presented. Luckily, we have Mr. Josey back for the director of finances. So we’ll meet with him, see what we can do.
I think they did a good job cutting back, of course nobody wants to have cut backs, but I think they cut back as tight as the could.
Trying to keep the teachers there is the main thing and trying not to cut back any of their money and lay any more teachers off.
Mitzie Almond (D 2)
First, I would like to think that we entrust our administration to come up with the budget and the different scenarios for the board to approve one of those.
I don’t really think there’s anybody on the school board that could come up with the budget to start with. And that’s why we hire, I hope, good administration that does come up with those numbers.
I’m not for taking any money out of classrooms, away from teachers. Things are going to be difficult, I understand, and when you get ready to make these changes, we need to inform the parents.
Just like closing a school, if you tell the parents why you’re doing it and what will happen if you don’t do it, they will receive that better than a 30 day “we’re thinking about closing this school” and 30 days later we make that decision.
We as parents need to know that way we can process it and understand it.
Lonnie Chandler (D 1)
Considering the budget, one of the things we have to do is maximizing protecting our teachers.
Keeping our teachers, attracting new teachers. If we have to make budget cuts, and we’re being told they are coming, we have to cut as far from the students as we can possibly cut.
And the bottom line is, don’t spend more than we have.
Krista Bowers (D 1)
I think when you’re looking at the budget, you’ve got to do just what we’ve all done.
When you graduate college, when you get married, the first thing you do is to make a plan.
You try to figure out where you are currently, where you want to be in five years, where you want to be in ten years. And you got to plan ahead.
We can look at numbers of population, look at what numbers we’re short with money coming in from the state and try to forecast that ahead, where we’re not hit blindsided with things.
I think, we want to not touch our children if we don’t have to go there first.
We need to look at other ways. I think we need to get a plan with our schools themselves.
Talk to your teachers, talk to your superintendent. Find out where they want their future to be.
I just want us to look at a budget, get a good budget plan and not live on a pay check to pay check decisions.
Q: A lot of time, effort and money have been spent on the ALCOA re-licensing issue on both sides. What do you think Stanly County’s role in the process should be moving forward?
Of, course there are several counties involved in this issue within the state and Stanly County has taken a particularly strong stance on this issue.
There are a lot of things that are behind the scenes that I don’t know. And, having worked in public service for 24 years and understanding attorney/client privileges and being behind the scenes, I know there’s a lot I don’t know.
Often, I get the question what side are you on? Are you on ALCOA’s side or on the county’s side.
To be honest with you, I’m on Stanly County’s side. And, the analogy I use a lot of times is you have a couple that’s friends of yours and they have children and they get separated or they get divorced and everybody wants to know which side you’re one.
I’m on the children’s side.
I’m working hard. I’m researching and being as diligent as I can be to understand and educate myself on the issues.
However, there are four candidates up here. There’s only one that’s been behind the scenes since day one who’s been privy to all the information and he’s made his stands. No disrespect to Jim or Peter - they’ve made their stands.
Being a criminal investigator for the many years I have, until I can get my hands on every piece of information, and until I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt, I cannot be boxed into a corner and come out on one side or the other. I just cannot do that.
Now, my individual passion, how I want it to end up, is the common resolve for the betterment of all people, shared revenue going forward, for the next four years, 50 years.
I’ve made no bones about
where I stand.
I covered the news around here for eight and a half years, first with the SNAP, then with my blog, “Inside Stanly.”
Google “Inside Stanly” and read about the Yadkin Project or ALCOA and you’ll see where I stand.
My decision to run basically came from the Dec. 11 and 12 meetings of the EDC Board, which I covered.
Paul Stratos, who I consider a professional hire by the commissioners, one of the best hires they’ve had, worked diligently that night to try to get the EDC Board to come out and support the jobs - Clean Tech jobs - and they did not.
Then on Dec. 15, the commissioners walked from the Clean Tech jobs.
I’ve been told by people in this room tonight those jobs were not real. I disagree. In my view, the jobs were real.
Speaking with Tommy Gibson, who works at ALCOA, retired, he’s still there, he personally told me he worked with engineers at Clean Tech and the German machinery manufacturers.
First, they worked on a plan that would have put two furnaces in the plant.
Second, they worked on a plan that would have put four furnaces in the plant.
I come from an industrial background, Burlington Industries, 16 years.
You don’t spend all that money and work all those hours if you aren’t intentionally trying to do something.
The jobs were real. We walked from a $300 million investment and 450 jobs, and that’s why I’m running.
I want to change the momentum, I want to get us turned around, and when I get a chance, I’ll talk to you about Tucker Engineering in Locust.
I’ve been working with them. In five years, it’s going to be a major player in green energy and manufacturing.
Believe it or not, I’d like to see the issue settled, too with ALCOA in a very equitable way.
The whole intent from the very git-go - the reason I started this thing - was not as far as the licensing was concerned, it was over pollution that I knew about.
There were some sites that need to be taken care of and cleaned up, and they have been now. Capped and clayed, and as far as I know they’ve done alright, they just need to be checked.
We’ve got cleaner water to drink. They’re capping the PCBs in the lake. They have admitted they came from their place. Where they came from we don’t know, they say they don’t know. It had to come from there because of the transformers they had.
They cleaned up the PCBs below the dam where they were located.
And, all of this was done because we said hold up on this. We just need to do what’s fair and equitable.
We’ve always traded that water down there which belongs to the people. I don’t think anybody can argue with that. All the water belongs to all the people of this region.
It flows down that river and I know they’re using it. It’s like you getting free fuel for whatever you’re doing.
We’ve always traded for jobs or some type of revenue coming back to this county and this region and that’s all I’m for.
And, we are still in negotiations.
You know, this has been going on for not only six years, when I was doing research on this I went down to the library. You all remember those microfilm, that’s a lot of fun looking back at newspapers from 2000.
You can see back in 2000 where the county commissioners were indicating they were going to fight this ALCOA relicensing and to me, you have to have a compelling reason to take over a private enterprise that’s profit-making and turn it over to a public entity.
Because economic justice can best be won by free men through free enterprise.
The county commissioners have not shown me a compelling reason why they are fighting this battle. Instead they’ve grossly underestimated the cost of this. They budgeted $900,000 on legal fees and spent over $5 million on it.
They said when they turned down the Clean Tech deal, Lindsay Dunevant said there was a guarantee in there for $1.2 million of the jobs didn’t come.
Lindsay Dunevant said at a county commission meeting it was a bad deal for Stanly County because the spending power of $1.2 million per year decreases over time.
For example, $1.2 million this year was only worth $828,000 in spending money 10 years from now. Twenty years from now, it’s only worth $500,000. And, 50 years from now only worth $188,000 in spending dollars.
Now, we got zero from that deal. I checked with a couple of accountants and the zero dollars we got from that deal today is worth zero dollars in spending power 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years from now.
Those jobs were real. I’ve been following up with Clean Tech. It’s actually two companies now and they’re down in Mississippi and they’re still working to start digging and building their plants down there in Mississippi.
NC State Senate
Q: What would be your top legislative priorities in the next session of the NC Senate?
My top legislative priority for the next session of the General Assembly is to make sure we get jobs back into this district.
We’ve had double digit unemployment in this district since 2008 in most of the counties, if they weren’t in double digits they very close to that.
We have results of decades of a liberal agenda of over taxing, overspending, overregulation that has weakened our economy.
We’ve got to turn that around. We’ve got to make sure we have lower taxes and regulatory reform and that we cut taxes so that businesses will be attracted to come to us.
Just on that thought, the president of the United States Chamber of Commerce said there is 3.1 million jobs that have gone unfilled because there’s not a big enough workforce of people who apply that have the skills or the knowledge to do the job.
So, on top of that, and 66 percent of North Carolina’s fourth-graders aren’t proficient in reading and one-fourth drop out.
We’ve got to have education reform.
We’ve got over 50 percent of our students leave high school and go into the community colleges and they have to take at least one course in remedial reading or math.
We’ve got to do something at the high school level to take care of that.
Acts passed in the last session deal with that. They’re looking at K-3 and making a reading program there so that students that go into fourth grade are proficient in reading and at the end of the third grade, they’re going to stop social promotion if those students are not proficient, they’re giving them remediation.
First, what we need in North Carolina is more business people in the legislature. We need more business people who know how to create jobs, who know how to spend money wisely, who know how to be efficient and know how to do the things that have made North Carolina the great state that it is.
We need to invest in education. Education is the backbone of our economy and the key to prosperity for the future.
We’ve got to invest in early childhood education and give those children from birth to 5 years old a chance to start school ready so they can learn and be productive citizens.
We’ve got to give North Carolina companies a chance to hire workers and get tax credits if they hire North Carolina workers to be employed with their company.
We’ve got to invest in workforce training. We’ve got to create jobs and I can do that working with the legislature, one of the 50 state senators, I’m hearing from both parties, both Republican and Democrat, and unaffiliated, we need more business people with business experience.
I’m proud to say I have the endorsement of the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce, the voice of business across our state.
I also have broadbased support from North Carolina Realtors who know the importance of our real estate industry to our state’s economic recovery.
I also have the support of the North Carolina State Employees and the North Carolina Association of Educators.
I can work with people across party lines. I have a record of being able to do that in my 15 years of service as mayor of Rocking-ham.
I can help make things happen. I can bring about practical solutions to help get North Carolina back on track.
Register of Deeds
Question: If elected what are your plans to make the most of the annual budget for the register of deeds office?
The allocation for the office is about $299,000, out of that approximately $200,000 in salaries. There is four full time employees in the office. That’s been reduced in previous years from the state office about 2-3 years ago, then it went down to five and now it’s four.
So, when looking at the budget, I don’t see a whole lot of cost savings in the budget. There’s some tiny items that might be looked at. Items like, instead of sending four or five people for the purposes of training. I think its more important to send one or two.
Let them come back and do what we call “train the trainer.” They come back into the office and whatever they’ve learned, share it with the staff. As far as the budget itself, I really have no problems with it aside from tweaking the training items just a little bit.
Yes, I have put several cost saving policies into place, such as recycling ... accounting systems, use of email instead of making long distance phone calls or expending money for print. By doing this I’ve saved 40 percent in just supplies, I’ve cut the phone bill and postage costs by 50 percent. I’d like to continue doing that and coming up with other ideas.
On a happier note, we started a Valentine’s Day wedding event, which involves bringing over 50 businesses together, we had five couples get married. They each had a wedding cake from one lady in a wedding gown up. We had cake, punch — a flowing punch bowl/fountain, we even had a horse drawn carriage.
This totaled more than $10,000 for the wedding couple and this is at no cost to the tax payer. And this is the kind of thing, as register of deeds, that when you don’t have to spend money that you can still get a lot done.
Information from the N.C. House contest will appear in Sunday’s SNAP.