Commissioners conservative approach: Expect more of same in coming years

Jun. 28, 2014 @ 03:00 PM

Whether you like or loathe the conservative tone and direction of the Board of Commissioners during their recent deliberations on the county budget, expect more of the same in the near future.

That’s because the Republicans who govern the nine-member board already are assured of staying in control after the Nov. 4 general election. Republicans hold five seats now, and will retain at least that many seats for the next two years based on which candidates are running for the Board of Commissioners this fall.
That means the cautious approach of the commissioners to requests for school funding from the county Board of Education — or the resistance of the Republicans to big-ticket spending through large-scale bond referendums — is likely to continue. The commissioners did partially accommodate the Guilford County Schools by authorizing a fall referendum issue on a quarter cent sales tax increase that would benefit the school system.
Vice Chairman Hank Henning of High Point said the prudent approach to spending reflects the fiscal cards that the county commissioners have been dealt because of the Great Recession and commitments to pay off previous bond projects.
“We have an excessive amount of debt that we are trying to pay off. That’s why we added money to the fund balance to try to be able down the road to address projects and maintain our credit rating,” Henning said.
Republicans are assured of continuing to have the final say on the approach to spending through at least the end of 2016.
When the candidate filing period concluded in February, no Democrats filed for either of the two seats held by Republicans. The remaining three seats before voters this fall are held by Democratic commissioners.
Three commissioner races are uncontested this year: Democratic incumbent Carolyn Coleman of Pleasant Garden in District 7, Republican challenger Alan Perdue of Greensboro in District 2 and Republican challenger Justin Conrad of Greensboro in District 3. Current GOP Commissioners Bill Bencini of High Point in District 2 and Linda Shaw of Greensboro in District 3 aren’t seeking re-election. Bencini will run for mayor of High Point, while Shaw is retiring from elected politics.
Advocates for school funding probably will gain an ally on the Board of Commissioners through Democrat Carlvena Foster, who now serves on the county school board. Foster is the Democratic nominee in District 1 to succeed Commissioner Bruce Davis of High Point, who didn’t seek re-election to the board because he made an unsuccessful bid for Congress in the May primary. 
Foster faces Republican challenger Eugene Lester III of Greensboro, but she’s running in a heavily Democratic-leaning district.
Depending on the outcome of the general election, Republicans could pad their margin on the Board of Commissioners. The most contested board race this year pits Democratic At-large Commissioner Kay Cashion of Greensboro against Republican challenger Larry Proctor of Greensboro.
pjohnson@hpe.com | 888-3528