Watchdog Report-Craven County Matters-3 Feb 15

WATCHDOG REPORT

3 February 2015

Security Concerns at the Human Services Building

This subject has come up in each of the last several Craven County Board of Commissioners meetings. It started back on November 17, 2014, when Social services Director Kent Flowers presented a request that the Board consider a WEAPONS BAN in County buildings. That went over like a lead balloon (kudos to the Commissioners), so during his song and dance routine, Mr. Flowers modified his request to ask for armed security at the Human Services building.  At the 20Jan15 meeting of the Board, Mr. Flowers gave a very poorly done slide presentation to try to convince the Board that his concerns were justified.  He also stated that, even though he has a concealed carry permit, he is not allowed to arm himself at the Human Service building to protect himself or the other employees.  At the Board meeting on 2Feb15, I petitioned the Board and asked them not to use taxpayer dollars, but to change whatever ordinance, personnel regulation, or whatever deprived the employees of their God given and Constitutionally protected right to bear arms.  READ MORE

On 3Feb15, the Board of Commissioners decided to form a sub-committee to meet with personnel at the Human Services building and study the situation and report back to the full Board. The members are Commissioners McCabe, Dacey, and Liner.  Let’s hope their solution of preference is self protection, not more taxpayer dollars.

CCTA concern about higher personal property tax rates for FY2015

At the 20Jan15 Board meeting, Glen Jones, County Assessor, expressed concern that, for the first time since the Great Depression, property assessments might go down, and that the tax rates would have to be increased to produce the same revenue as the 2014 fiscal year.  Isn’t that interesting?  Since your property is worth less, you are presumably less well off, and inflation is on steroids; therefore, you should pay tax at a higher rate???  DOESN’T ANYBODY IN GOVERNMENT EVER CONSIDER JUST CUTTING THE SIZE OF GOVERNMENT???

Growth in Size of Government

Speaking of the growth in government, the County owned in-patient hospice facility is still on track, the Federally Approved Heath Center (FAHC) Certificate-of-Need (CON) is also still on track, AND Craven County Social Services just received more tax dollars for contract hire for developing an Acquisition Plan for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid service (CMS) at a cost to taxpayers of $115,500 for a 6 month contract. You should read the demands this CMS makes on the County in order to obtain this money from the feds.  Is there never ANY push back?

The County authorized about $75,000 for “dues” to the newly re-organized Craven 100 group that consists of private business, the County, and several cities in the county. It wasn’t clear how often this “dues” will be paid by the taxpayers, but you can bet the private businesses won’t be paying much.  More growth in government.  More demands for tax money from overburdened citizens.

Transparency in Government

I didn’t fully appreciate how far we have come in transparency in government with the Craven County Board of Commissioners until last night when the subject of “consent agenda” came up again. Commissioner Dacey, much to his credit, said that the public needs confidence that all business conducted by the Board is done in public. Use of the consent agenda leaves suspicion that much has been decided outside the public view.

If you want to see outlandish abuse of the consent agenda, go to some Craven County Board of Education meetings. About the only thing the public sees is awards and atta-boys. What little business the School Board does that the public is privy to is after the citizens are invited to leave at the conclusion of awards and “feel good about your Board” presentations. The consent agenda is approved so fast that citizens have no idea what the Board just did.

Nowadays, a great deal of information of concern to citizens can be found on the County website.  Examples are a full Board meeting agenda with attachments the Friday before a meeting at which citizens can petition on that meeting’s agenda items, financial reports and audit reports, public hearings schedule, and even a copy of the Agreement Conveying Real Property For Economic Development Purposes.  This represents a HUGE improvement over the last few years, and  I encourage all citizens to avail themselves of this opportunity to learn about County Business first hand.

Joint Meeting of the Craven County Board of Commissioners and the Craven County Board of Education

This important meeting will be held on 26 February 2015 at the School Board Administration Building, 3600 Trent Road, at 7:30 AM. The agenda has not been set yet, but Commissioner Dacey expressed concern that his request for information about student reading levels at third grade, and Common Core testing concerns have not had a response.  (The Board seems to be facing the same stone wall that CCTA’s Public Education Committee sees when it attends Board of Education meetings seeking information.)  Commissioner Liner expressed concern that the various budgets kept by the School Board could be confusing as to sources of the funds.  They get federal, state, AND county taxpayer funds, and they seem to hide the other two sources when they make budget requests of any one source.  I would add to what Commissioner Liner said that it is confusing to say the least.  One could conclude that the process is designed to be misleading.  The Board of Education would be much improved if it practiced transparency.

Respectfully Submitted,

Hal James

CCTA Watchdog Committee Chairman

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