Commissioner Kirk Smith Questionnaire – Lee County Commission Candidate

Why do you wish to serve or continue to serve in public office?

I wish to continue to serve as a Lee County Commissioner with the purpose of keeping focused on the principles of a government that values Life, Liberty, and Property rights.

2. What are the top three challenges facing your county and how do you propose to address them through your office?

The top challenge facing Lee County is the highest property taxes as compared with our neighboring counties. The higher taxes create a barrier for both business investments and job creation. I propose working to reduce taxes, induce frugality in county expenditures and to keep our pending construction bonds within their budgets.

The second challenge facing Lee County is the high unemployment as compared with our neighboring counties. The reasons former commissions gave tax incentives was to create jobs. With nearly $12 million dollars in taxpayer incentives given out in the past 12 years, we failed to increase jobs. Not only that, we have recipients of past breaks, who failed to meet previous employment goals, who are still returning to the county asking for tax breaks. I will continue to oppose corporate welfare that burdens small business with paying their full property tax burden.

The third challenge facing Lee County is working toward the safe extraction of natural gas deposits of which is highly enriched with the noble gas helium. We have a number of land rich and income poor elderly landowners who have enormous wealth beneath their property. I will work to allow those landowners the opportunity to enjoy the fruits their property. The natural gas industry will provide valuable infrastructure thus helping to increase our county’s revenue stream.

3. There is a statewide issue with unmaintained roads in county neighborhoods recently referred to as “orphaned roads.” A bill was introduced in the General Assembly this year but did not move forward. What are your thoughts for solving this problem?

First the county is not responsible for roads or their maintenance. It is imperative that the state pass legislation that resolves the “orphaned roads” without imposing additional costs or responsibilities on counties. I know Lee County worked to facilitate one such orphaned road where a developer went bankrupt before completing the transfer to the state.

4. What NEW ideas or incentives can you suggest to attract business into the region?

I suggest the repeal of Senate Bill 3 – the Renewable Energy Portfolio is a bill that has artificially increased North Carolina’s electricity rates 17% from 2008 – 2014 and are projected to go higher. 80% of a solar farm’s property is exempt from county property taxes and the remaining 20% is on an accelerated depreciation rate. The electricity is then sold to power companies at the retail rate and they pass on those costs to the consumer. This artificially inflates our state’s energy costs and lessens North Carolina’s competiveness.

5. What steps, if any, would you take to improve your county’s property valuation process in the years ahead? Why do you think these steps are necessary?

Our County Tax Office is currently upgrading the appraisal process by upgrading the Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal (CAMA) software by upgrading to iasWorld. They have introduced portable filed tablets to assist in field appraisals. This fiscal year they will incorporate PICTOMETRY thus reducing follow-up field visits. The Lee County Tax office will be working on a project with Tyler Technologies using Tyler Verify. This will allow our tax office to verify their data, sketches, and street level photography. They are planning to implement additional software upgrades to provide citizens the ability to access and review the tax records.

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