While Jamezetta Bedford expressed disapproval that the Orange County commissioners set budget priorities without public input, her No. 1 priority if elected, she said, is long-range fiscal planning to meet those goals.
The board has set an “aggressive social agenda addressing poverty, economic development and expanding pre-K (education),” she said.
“Nearly half of the county budget is appropriated for education,” Bedford said. “As a three-term school board member and a (certified public accountant), I have extensive knowledge about public education and budgeting that will assist the BOCC in long-term fiscal planning to ensure the health of our residents, education system, economy and environment now and in the future.”
She is competing for a District 1 seat – representing southeastern Orange County (See map, bit.ly/245bP91) – with Southern Village resident Gary Kahn, Commissioners Vice Chairman Mark Dorosin and Commissioner Penny Rich. (Look for interviews with Kahn and Rich on Wednesday.)
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Only District 1 residents can vote for candidates in the District 1 primary. Two District 1 commissioners, since no Republicans are running, will be elected March 15. Early voting starts March 3.
Bedford said she would work to welcome, recruit and retain sustainable businesses. The goals should be a diverse tax base, less reliance on residential property taxes and good jobs for residents, she said.
“Good projects include positions for technical workers. Our lower-income residents need these jobs and could be trained at the Durham Tech campus in Orange County,” Bedford said. “Given the cuts by the General Assembly, we must change how we budget and prioritize needs from wants.”
See the full interview at chapelhillnews.com:
The $125 million November bond includes money to address about a third of the repair and renovation needs in both school districts. How would you address the remaining needs?
Bedford: The BOCC is planning to place $120 million on a bond referendum for school capital projects and $5 million for affordable housing.
The CIP (Capital Improvement Plan) needs a thorough review for long-term planning.
Two and three years ago, each school district employed engineers, architects and security professionals who worked with stakeholders at each school to develop the list of tiered needs at the older facilities. The schools have charts to project when a new roof or HVAC will be needed for each building looking out for decades. It does not seem like the school and county facility needs have been projected and integrated far enough into the future. I believe long-term cash flow analysis is lacking, and as a CPA, I bring that skill to the table. As a school board chair, I championed the hiring of a sustainability coordinator and building energy-efficient schools, saving the county in the long term. We must plan for the annual expenditure and review the 60:40 arbitrary ratio for schools vs. county facility maintenance.
Have the county’s three economic development districts – Buckhorn, Hillsborough and Durham/Eno – failed to do what was intended? If not, how would you propose filling them with business or industry?
Bedford: I don’t believe the three economic districts have failed, but they have taken far too long to develop. Much of the delay has been the lack of water and sewer lines into the development districts. $4 million has been committed to the Buckhorn EDD phase 1 for a backbone water and sewer utility line and $4.9 million for phase 2 was approved by the commissioners Feb 2. I support this investment. We are decades behind our neighboring counties. The county receives numerous inquiries, but we need to have the infrastructure, including broadband, in place for these zones to attract business. Yes, the cost of water access for Durham/Eno EDD has more than tripled, but it will only continue to increase. In fact, we need to identify the next three locations.
What should the county’s role be in making sure there’s affordable housing for lower-income and working class families? Would you be willing to relax the rural buffer rules?
Bedford: There are many ways in which the county can take a role in our local affordable housing crisis, including the facilitation of low-interest loans, advocating for property tax relief for seniors and those with disabilities, and innovative partnerships with nonprofits, towns and the university.
The county can partner to provide a low-interest loan program that nonprofits or developers can use to acquire land, or purchase and renovate existing apartments/condominiums, using federal tax credits for investors that are reserved and priced for people earning less than 60 percent to 80 percent of the area median income.
The county is landbanking to have some land available for displaced mobile units. That’s creative. We can review ordinances for any changes needed to consider allowing smaller homes classified as trailers. Could the EDDs also include affordable housing? We also need operating funds for rent support.
The rural buffer has served the community well to provide clean water and contain sprawl. Some are arguing that affordable housing depends on supply and demand and then concluding that the rural buffer should be opened. I believe that conclusion is too simplistic and we must exhaust other options before we encroach upon our watersheds and wildlife habitats.
What issue would you raise during your first six months in office that no one else is talking about?
Bedford: I am a Certified Public Accountant practicing locally, with experience in long-range budget forecasting and financial planning. We need long-term fiscal planning to ensure the health of our residents, education system, economy and environment now and in the future. As a CPA, I have expertise in cash flow analysis, budgeting and forecasting. I have over 10 years of experience working with local small businesses, nonprofits and individuals. I understand audits (having worked on several), the ever-changing tax code and governmental accounting, all of which will help with policy decision-making and anticipating the real impacts on people in our community.
Address: 401 Knobb Court, Chapel Hill
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 919-933-5391
Party affiliation: Democrat
Career: Certified Public Accountant with Coleman, Huntoon and Brown
Political activities: Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board member, 2003-15 (6 years as chair and vice chair)
Community activities: liaison to School Improvement Teams, Special Needs Advisory Committee, Gifted Program Advisory Council, World Language Committee, Policy Committee, PTA Council, Public School Foundation, Pre-K/Head Start Policy Council and Communities In Schools of Orange County; Chapel Hill Area Unit of the Autism Society of NC; American Institute of Certified Public Accountants; N.C. Association of Certified Public Accountants