On June 29, the Holly Springs Town Council is poised to vote on the annual budget. Let us hope that council members will be fiscally responsible and gratified to be leading a municipality that is able to propose spending increases rather than being asked to do more with less. Though voters passed a bond referendum to cover projects for parks and recreation, the margin for approval was not profound. Clearly 40 percent of voters did not support the referendum because they believed it would result in a tax increase. At least some of the 60 percent voted in faith that the council would keep its promise to not raise taxes. However, respecting the values that made the community attractive, viable parks and recreation are important in measuring quality of life and we must move forward.
Statistically, Holly Springs has a demographic of 8000 residents under the age of eighteen. Existing park and recreation facilities are designed to accommodate 1000. According to Councilman Chet Van Fossen, we are about $40M behind in projects to serve recreational needs because of past concerns that outweighed the benefits of providing soccer fields, tennis and basketball courts, football equipment and the like. Similar projects may be apparent in the proposed budget. Perhaps the council might reassess a few priorities.
For instance, one line item for $250,000 proposes building a pedestrian bridge at Bass Lake. Another targets $300,000 to pay for a design plan for a building to house the towns’ growing police force. Nowhere have I seen projections for the cost of the building, but someone wants a plan-at a cost of $300K. Are these projects fiscally responsible during a period when we are demanding at least 40 percent of voters who do not want a tax increase to foot the bill? How well does either expenditure address the immediate need of families for practical recreational facilities? As lovely as a foot bridge may be, rambunctious adolescents will not get their needs met by romping across it. And while a few adults-staff mostly- will gain satisfaction from looking at a lovely building plan and design, it will not deter one criminal. Are these the kinds of projects that previously outweighed development of parks and recreation? Are they needed urgently enough to force voters who could be cash strapped to pay for them now? Scrutiny of the budget reveals other examples but these are the most egregious. The two councilwomen already are wisely dubious about a budget that calls for increased taxation. Let us hope others follow their prudence.
According to the NC Treasure data, Holly Springs’ debt is among the highest of any state municipality in its size range. Its per capita taxes and expenses are also very high. A look at comparative salaries reveals similar patterns in that area too. Before you burden citizens with additional taxes, I urge council members to reorder priorities and work more effectively with what we have. Just because you can get the money doesn’t mean you have to.
Past Mayor, Holly Springs