Last week I traveled to a few more counties and visited with their managers.
- Aaron Church, Yadkin County Manager in Yadkinville
- John Day, Cabarrus County Manager in Concord
- Bryan Steen, Burke County Manager in Morganton
- Bob Hyatt, Davidson County Manager in Lexington
I thanked them for supporting the School and heard firsthand about the challenges they are facing.
Not surprisingly, many counties are dealing with significant budget shortfalls. Some managers are recommending property tax increases, but their governing boards have been reluctant to go along. At the same time, however, they are unwilling to let the managers reduce services to citizens.
That means finding some other way to close the budget gap. The managers have described dipping into fund balances, employee layoffs, program consolidations, deferred maintenance, and a host of other savings measures. Managers are worried about budget shortfalls in future years when they have property tax revaluations that are expected to produce less revenue because of lower housing values. They also are concerned about the increased demands on county employees. Many employees are being asked to do more than one job, and they have not had pay increases for three or four years.
The managers are not focused exclusively on their budgets and they continue to address other issues. In talking with Aaron Church, for example, he was more concerned about finding a way to get ethics training for county employees. Many thanks to Norma Houston for agreeing to help him out. John Day is working to develop critical infrastructure that will facilitate an emerging local foods movement in Cabarrus County. Bob Hyatt is experimenting with paperless meetings by giving iPads to all of his commissioners. Pretty cool.
North Carolina is fortunate to have a strong tradition of professional local government management, and it certainly comes through in my meetings. They consistently point to the School as a source of great information and support. More than ever, they see us as an important partner in their work to improve government in North Carolina. I thank them for their support, and everyone turns it around and expresses their appreciation for the School. Thank you.
I feel compelled to mention two food highlights during my visits. Aaron Church drove 15 miles out into Yadkin County so that we could eat lunch at Shiloh General Store. It is part of a small Amish community. I strongly recommend trying the Whoopie Pie, which consists of cream filling between two large oatmeal cookies. Oh my goodness. The sandwiches are good and so is the German Chocolate Pie. After meeting with Bob Hyatt in Lexington late Friday, I got a pound of barbecue for the road from the Bar-B-Cue Center. I generally tend to favor eastern North Carolina barbecue, but their more tomato-based variety was excellent.
Lexington claims to be the barbecue capital of the world. Other communities might wish to challenge them for that title, but their annual barbecue festival sure looks impressive. I’ve never attended, but I’m putting the next one on my calendar (October 22). In honor of their commitment to pork, they have a number of pig statues in various designs. Here was my favorite.