Local government is the closest to the people, and has the most impact on our daily lives. From schools to transportation infrastructure; from open space and parks to libraries; from public safety to health care and human services, the Wake County Commission is a critical part of funding and providing services that the people of Wake County utilize every day.
The Wake County Board of Commissioners is a 7 seat board. Members must live in their districts but they all run county-wide. There are currently 611,000 registered voters in Wake County, (the population of the county is projected to be 958,015 by this July). We are bigger than 5 states. However, since many voters are focused on National and State elections, it is even a greater challenge to communicate with the voters about how critical the County Commission is to issues important to them.
The Board of Commissioners is responsible for all county spending and by far the largest area is in education. Last year, of the $634,709,259 in revenues through property tax and a portion of the sales tax, $313, 503, 224 was spent on public schools. The state of North Carolina pays for 60% of teacher’s salaries and a portion of the administrators for Wake public schools. The county is responsible for the balance of their salaries. Counties are responsible for the construction and maintenance of school buildings and supplies. They must issue bonds for school construction and renovation. The same formula is true for one of our County’s primary economic engines, Wake Tech Community College.
The county must issue bonds to pay for school construction, Wake Tech construction, library construction and open space purchases. Voter approved general obligation bonds pay for these investments in our community. The county is also integral to transportation planning, and is currently considering a referendum on expanding transportation options, (expanded bus services, and planning for regional rail). Bonds and the transportation referendum cannot be on the ballot unless the Board of Commissioners approves them.
The county is also responsible for human services, (medical examiner, child welfare, public health, health clinics, mental health, and services for the disabled). Many other things that we take for granted are also run by the county: open space and county parks, the county board of elections, food/restaurant inspections, public libraries and animal shelters. The sheriff’s office, county jails and courthouses are in their budget, as are all EMS services and some fire departments.
Most of the solutions to the challenges we face do not fit in neat partisan ideological boxes. Because the County is involved in so many issues we interact with every day with so little attention, individuals like you who are willing to contribute your time and resources’ can have a disproportionally greater impact. Please take the time to get involved in this effort. Together, we can put solutions first and build upon Wake County’s success as the best place to live and work in America.