by Dr. Michael Sanera
Director of Research and Local Government Studies
A "Save the Date" Announcement
The John Locke Foundation research staff cordially invites you to attend our all-day "County Commissioner Policy Issues Workshop" in Raleigh on Saturday, February 26. Our research staff will explore solutions to your most pressing issues: budget, education, land use regulation, taxes, and economic development, just to name a few. This workshop precedes the JLF Annual Dinner with guest speaker Liz Cheney. A special package will be offered to all county commissioners. Details will be announced shortly.
Elections Have Consequences
Republicans won major victories at the national and state levels, but let’s not forget the local government changes. Republicans captured control of 49 of the 100 county commissions, and Jackson County’s new independent commissioner will work with Republicans to control that commission.
The new Republican majority on the Wake County commission swung into action at the very first meeting. They voted to repeal a resolution passed by the Democratic majority last spring that was critical of the new school board’s neighborhood school policy that ended years of forced busing for socio-economic diversity.
The new majority also voted to change the county employees insurance to eliminate coverage of elective abortions except in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother. They also voted to amend the county’s legislative agenda to add provisions opposing collective bargaining for public employees and supporting raising or eliminating the cap on charter schools.
Voters all across the state demanded change, and the new Wake County commission is delivering.
No More Blank Checks
In order to stop the never-ending cycle of spending and taxing, county commissions must be active in monitoring and controlling one of the biggest parts of the county budget: education. Ensuring that students receive a quality education is a county commission responsibility. Specifically, county commissions are required by state law to examine all information that relates to the financial operation of the school district in order to determine appropriate revenues. Commissions are also empowered to oversee funding, construction, renovation and maintenance of school facilities.
All too often, commissioners have deferred to the school board spending requests with little or no oversight. If commissioners are properly to balance student needs for a quality education with taxpayer concerns about tax increases, they must assert their legal responsibilities.
In future newsletters, this space will highlight ways that county commissions can and should end the policy of issuing blank checks to school boards.
Here are some initial suggestions: