When the New Hanover County Commissioners gathered for a budget work session, differences in philosophy fueled some tense debate.
As the commissioners reviewed the recommended budget for 2016-2017, Chair Beth Dawson and Vice Chair Jonathan Barfield pushed for increased spending for economic development, the community college, and area nonprofits and schools. Barfield says New Hanover cannot operate with a poverty mentality when serving as the economic hub for southeastern North Carolina:
"You have to have certain amenities in place for those companies to want to come to your community. As I talk to the business community, I hear less about property tax rate and more about, ‘How can you put the right things in place so we can recruit a quality workforce to work in our companies?’"
Commissioner Woody White was silent during the budget work session. I spoke with him after the meeting:
"This is a board that’s controlled by a majority of folks that tax and spend. I’m in the minority with Commissioner Watkins, and so, unfortunately, we just sit and watch it happen and hopefully have a different role to play in years to come."
White calls the budget proposal “atrocious," and he does not support the recommended property tax increase of about five cents.