Some of these questions come from Grif Bond, a planning board member.
** What is your plan to boost economic development to improve local employment in industry, manufacturing or higher-paying non-retail businesses? He notes that about 90 percent of the employed people who live in Wake Forest commute to Raleigh, Durham, RTP or other locations. Local employment would lessen traffic congestion.
** How will you manage the tax rate, now 52 cents with 11 cents dedicated to the independent Wake Forest Fire Department and 41 cents covering governmental operations? The 41 cents also includes weekly garbage and recycling pickup so there are no charges to individual homeowners, unlike most other local municipalities.
Comparisons with other municipalities are not useful because they have different tax bases (usually more industry) and do not include garbage and recycling but charge them as fees and many have other fees than we have in Wake Forest.
** There will be a county-wide property revaluation in 2020 which in the past has meant a larger tax base for Wake Forest. The town manager will propose a new tax rate or keep the present rate and the commissioners will determine whether to accept his proposal. Have you considered the revaluation and the setting of a new tax rate?
** As the town commissioners have decided to include the fire department in the town organization, there will be some financial considerations. The consultants and the town’s finance department will work out how the town should handle that financially. Would you be inclined to accept their recommendations?
** Would you vote for and be ready to pay for another fire station?
** What will you do when the town manager and chief finance officer recommend one or two bond referendums in the near future?
** How important do you think greenways and parks are? Do we need another large park, another community center? Would you be open to the idea of a large aquatics center?
Mr. Bond, these are some wonderful questions and I thank you for asking.
One of the three main planks in my platform is dedicated to small business growth. In 2012, I started my own small business here in Wake Forest. So, I understand the hurdles that many of our business owners face. According to the Small Business Association, 50 percent of small businesses fail in the first five years. Every dollar that the town can save a business owner is one that he can use to keep the business open. That is why I would push the town to open a business incubator. Approved applicants would be offered office space and internet access. We would also team up with a service, such as SCORE, offered by the SBA. The town can also hold regular asset fairs and business seminars put on by local business leaders. The cost to operate a program such as this would be small. Yet, the payoff could be huge. The town has already had tremendous success with a program similar to this when it helped the Wireless Research Center.
Another way that I would help the town create jobs is to have it back a performance art theater. I grew up in the theater and I have seen what a theater can do not only for personal growth but for the town's growth as well. What do people want to do before they go to a show? They want to go out to eat! I, just like many of you, would love to see a wider selection of mom and pop restaurant choices. A theater opening in our town could provide the incentive for more to open. The town could structure the parking lot to include some mixed-use zoning on the edges with shops and restaurants on the bottom and condos or office space above them. My dad runs a theater in a small town in Southern Virginia. The town backed the idea and the theater operates on grants, donations, and the revenue it generates. So, this is also something the town could do that would generate some small business growth, create jobs, and bring a wider restaurant selection.
As noted, there will be a county-wide reevaluation. I would hope that with the near 50% population growth we have experienced in the past 10 years that we would get a tax relief for all this growth that we have taken on. I want to cut frivolous spending as well. There is an estimate in the town CIP for $200,000 to paint "Wake Forest" on the water tower downtown. While it may look nice, is that a good investment of our money? I think not. Projects such as that, I would want to put a hold on until we fix our traffic infrastructure and our schools being capped. After listening to the recent discussion on bringing the fire department in the town, I feel that we should build a new firehouse. This will likely not be cheap. So, making sure that we are financially sound to be able to take on such cost is important. The presentation also pointed out that Firehouse 1 also will need some upgrades soon in addition to replacing trucks and apparatuses. That being said, I would also listen to the town's finance department on how we should best handle these costs. As long as their recommendations are sound, I would likely vote for them. My goal would be to do this with no tax increase or bonds needed.
It is hard to say if I would vote for any future bonds as I do not know of any reason we currently would need them and I do not want to speculate. The city took on 25.1 million in debt in 2014. Why do we need to add more to that at this time?
I love the greenways in the area. I think they are a great value add to the community. Not only do they increase our property values, but they are also a great way to encourage exercise and provide a beautiful green space. There have been recent studies that suggest the more green space a town has, the lower the crime rate and anxiety levels. I have heard from many people in the town at my meet and greets and canvassing that they would like to see more parks. I am all for this idea. I would like to see, however, that we try to find more grants and sponsorships to lessen the cost to the city. After we spent $14 million for a community center that was supposed to cost $11 million, I am cautious to make such another large investment so fast. I have not heard from anyone in the town that they would like an aquatic center.