Commission candidate has idea to balance county budget
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A candidate for New Hanover County Commission says he has a way to balance the county's sagging budget. Jason Harris says his version of the budget does not take into account any tax increases and shares cuts across the entire budget.

Harris says he's attended all three county budget workshops. He urged other candidates to take the initiative to show their solutions to the budget deficit rather than just pointing out problems.

Wednesday New Hanover County Commissioners asked staff to come back with two possible budget proposals: one if the the sales tax does pass, and another if it doesn't. But Harris says he's gone through the budget line by line and believes he's found a fair solution that would make equal percentage cuts to all discretionary spending.

"I want to make sure that no one is doing more than their fair share of the cuts that New Hanover County needs in order to balance the budget," Harris said.

Harris said each of the candidates for County Commission should consider trying to create their own version of the budget. Harris is having his plans reviewed this weekend. He will present them Monday.

Another candidate for County Commission has come out criticizing the current Commission.

In response to the county's latest budget workshop Brian Berger said it's time to stop the cycle of taxing, spending, and taxing more. He says the current County Commissioners engaged "in a multi-year spending orgy."

"There are other programs that are nice to have and do add a lot to the area: museums, parks, those types of things," Berger said, "but in a time like this, if we need to make cuts that's where I would look."

Berger says current commissioners are suggesting the county would collapse without a tax increase, but that's not the case. He says there are plenty of places to cut in the budget as it stands now.

We want nothing more than to be fair. We welcome any County Commission candidate to send their budget ideas to us at newsroom@wwaytv3.com, and we'll share them with voters in the coming weeks.

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.

Maybe the County Commission could explain his pay raise this past year....when county employees are taking 80hrs of furlough, the County Manager gives himself a pay raise. Now, county employees are looking at taking 120 furlough hours (almost a 9% pay cut). The next time someone breaks into your house, or your house catches on fire, or someone is critically injured, and you are wondering where your help is.....now you know

So, we have two candidates in this story.. Berger says the same ol same ol aas every politic says.. General blame, general solution.. Nothing negative Mr. Berger, just what we've heard before...
But then out of no where, we have Wilmington financial guru Harris stepping up to the plate without negativity, and DOING something! That is more than I have seen candidates present in Years.. Not saying "we have to comeup with a solution", but actually coming up with a solution and challenging other candidates to do the same!
Why is it I am betting that Harris is the only one trying to actually DO something?
If we had a full board of people like Mr. Harris, maybe we wouldn't have the issues we have now.. You have Thompson taking about his dong at a meeting, then another one who acts like he is racist and blames everyone else for their problems, The you have a couple that stay out of site, out of mind and who knows what the heck they do! (Sparks, Thompson and the other two of you who we don't know because youhide and do nothing, it's time to say goodbye! Our county demands a change from the hole you all have dug!) The only two politicians I have seen do ANYTHING lately is Harris and Barfield.. BOTH of which have my vote simpy becase thy show action and aren't a bunch of talk.. Thank you Mr. HARRIS and Barfield! For finally being there to put actions before words!

Voters who are opposed to the tax are clearly more likely to turnout and vote than those voters who favor the tax.

Borrow the money from GE, and pay them back by means of a property tax break!

Maybe it is time to try the Fair Tax! Obviously their current system is broke!

We have already had change thrown on our back one time.What we need is help and I don't know if we will find it!

I'm always weary of politicians who have all these great ideas about how to fix things, but refrain from sharing them publicly.

Seems like if he knows how to fix the budget shortfall, he could just go ahead and tell us so we could make the fix as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, the interview footage WWAY shot this afternoon wasn't included here last time I checked, but Jason and I seem to be in agreement that there is spending in the budget that could be cut, and increasing sales and/or property taxes is not a necessity.

Where Jason and I appear to differ, if my understanding is correct, is I have advocated cuts to non-essential program spending based on priorities, not equal proportional cuts across the board without prioritizing (a few specifics were discussed during my filmed interview), which won't make me popular with some and those interest groups wont vote for me or give money to my campaign. However, I believe it is more important that our elected officials prioritize needs, and budget accordingly, whereas Jason's plan seems to favor "fairness" irregardless of the merits and necessity of a program.

Promoting a budget that takes an equal proportion from every discretionary line item is a good way to try and please everyone and avoid having to make hard decisions - decisions that are likely cost votes on election day. Taking an equal proportion from every program in the name of "fairness" might be a way to avoid losing votes from any interest group, but that is not how I approach budgeting with the taxpayer's money (and it is the taxpayer's money, our elected officials would never spend their own money the way they spend taxpayers' money).

Establishing priorities, and budgeting to address priorities in order of importance, better serves most taxpayers. However, this priority-based budgeting approach typically requires making some tough decisions risking the loss of votes (politicians prefer to avoid making these decisions or position statements that might cost them votes... and find it's easier to raise everyone's taxes in small annual increments than it is to adjust spending patterns, and evaluate program merits weighing the costs against the results of each line item, to determine whether taxpayer's are actually getting the intended results).

Prioritizing and adequately funding vital "needs" is my preferred approach, and honestly, because of the current shortfall in revenues, that does mean having to make some deeper cuts in non-essential programs (which tend to greatly benefit small groups who will write checks for and vote for candidates that protect their allotment of tax dollars). This is where Jason and I appear to differ, although we probably agree that every department and line item should be evaluated to identify any and all efficiencies and cost-cutting measures that would have minimal impact on performance or quality of service.

I believe the County's highest priorities should be adequately funded and not subject to reduced resources, in the name of "fairness," in other words, to prevent deeper cuts in less vital programs and projects. That approach advocated by Jason, to cut all programs equally, if my understanding is correct, doesn't bother to set priorities, or even take into account the need for or performance of a program.

Elected officials should have the courage to prioritize needs, and budget accordingly, and end the vicious cycle of tax-and-spend-and tax more, which is slowly squeezing families, retirees, small businesses, in other words, many of us citizens.

I will tell you honestly that I cannot and would not support reducing resources for law enforcement to be "fair" to airlie gardens or cape fear museum or the "Committee of 100" knowing that the County has a growing crime and gang epidemic (which has been neglected too long and must be dealt with, "fairness" and personal vote-seeking be damned).

I support funding schools based on the merits and justifications of requested funding, without making reductions for no purpose other than to be ""fair" to the Cameron Art Museum or a County department with some less essential line items requested, and that means I dont get elected, I'm willing to take that risk because its the right approach to the current budget crisis.

I dont support raising taxes either, especially now when so many people and families are struggling, and I know that will result in those who support taxpayer subsidization of Cameron Art Museum, Airlie gardens, and other niceties to stroke checks and vote for other candidates who would raise taxes or use the "fairness" approach to continue the spending of taxpayer dollars on those line items.

However, we should remember that low taxes attract new businesses to an area more than any other factor, and also benefit existing businesses, especially small businesses, creating an environment for job creation. And spurring private sector job growth is a priority of mine but politicians rarely mention jobs when they're selling voters on the "need" to raise taxes.

Well, we don't need to raise taxes, and though cutting spending on non-essential, low priority line items might seem harsh, I have faith in the ingenuity and civic-mindedness of people and think spending reductions resulting from the budget shortfall would actually make some entities currently subsidized by tax dollars stronger, more valuable and better-off overall in the long-run than they are now.

Instead of being "fair" let's fix what's broken, eliminate that which is unfixable or unecessary, and compel our local government to live within the means of the people, and compensate for any reductions in funding with old-fashioned human innovation.

The budget shortfall was preventable, many of my fellow fiscal conservatives warned this would be the eventual result in the absence of changing the County and City government's budget practices (taxes, fees, spending, etc...), but the same politicans and status quo supporters remain in power.

I do not support this status quo, and the fairness approach appears to be a reflection of the same fiscal philosophy. I see an opportunity to improve, fundamentally, the way New Hanover County government budgets, that's my position, that fiscal conservatism is needed, not vote buying, and hopefully enough people now agree its time for that change and will vote for a change...a real change.

It might sound nice, on the surface, but Harris plan is a good-ole boy compromise just in case the sales tax is voted down.

Recommending that law enforcement, jails, and public education should receive the exact same reduction in funding as airlie gardens and museums few people go to is irresponsible and shows Harris has the wrong priorities.

We're in the midst of a serious crime problem in New Hanover County, we dont have enough jail space to hold all the criminals, so they're released back to the streets to victimize more innocent people, and Harris is showing poor judgement or his true colors (being just like the rest of them with the same way of thinking). Either way, we dont need more of the same, we need change.

We have already had change thrown on our backs.What we need is help and I don't know if we can find it!

All county workers took a two week paycut this year. That also included law enforcement, which seems a bit dumb. That amounts to about three percent of one's salary. Guess what...it didn't help. This county needs much more than 5% across the board. By the way Mr. Harris, I'm a county employee and have given three weeks of my salary in the past two years to the citizens of New Hanover county. Maybe, the citizens should have to take some responsibility and help foot the bill. So far, it's all been on the backs of New Hanover county employees. You won't get my vote.