Barry Jacobs: Orange County balancing competing issues well

April 27, 2013 

Orange County balancing competing issues well

Regarding the April 21 Point of View piece “A paler shade of Orange”: Apparently Michael Jacobs has chosen to use statistics to reinforce what he already thinks even if the facts don’t fit his assertions. To read his piece, one would believe Orange County is a willfully elitist outlier in North Carolina, promulgating policies that drive away people of color and expend tax dollars to no particular purpose.

The professor takes pains to identify a decline in the county’s African-American population over the last decade, throws together a hodgepodge of other stats and concludes that “a community that preaches social inclusion enacts policies of economic exclusion.” He conveniently fails to mention that, in the span of a decade governed by Orange County’s supposedly anti-inclusionary policies, its Asian population nearly doubled, its “Hispanic or Latino” population (census terms) more than doubled and the percentage of white population decreased. That must mean our policies aren’t a barrier to inclusion after all.

As for where all that tax revenue goes, Orange is among state leaders in the percentage of the county budget devoted to public education. Despite sustained enrollment growth in both of our excellent school systems, and a continued decline in school construction funds from the state, we’ve kept up with providing the high-dollar school buildings necessary to accommodate reasonable class sizes.

We are careful stewards of taxpayer dollars. We have a rigorous policy limiting debt and a strong fund balance, resulting in one of the highest bond ratings of any county in North Carolina. And we haven’t raised property taxes in four years.

We know our poverty rate and cost of living remain too high, situations we’re addressing in the face of historical, political and market-based forces we often cannot control.

Even in these anti-tax times, a healthy debate can be had regarding the limits and merits of public spending and government policy. But Jacobs seems more eager to paint Orange County leaders as business and social bogeymen (and women) than to grasp current realities or to appreciate the complexities of balancing competing local imperatives in an era of shrinking resources.

Barry Jacobs

Chairman, Orange County commissioners, Hillsborough

The length limit was waived to provide a fuller response to the Point of View.

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