Chatham County Line - Where all voices are heard


Chatham County Tax Reduction Initiative
by Tom Glendinning

Chatham County has joined the list of local governments being scrutinized for their spending habits. Several groups in Chatham have studied reports of actual and projected budgets of the last eight years to understand why expenditures have risen. The expenditure side of the Chatham budget has increased by 65 percent in five years and 130 percent in eight years. (Based on data published on the county website and the annual report furnished to the N.C. Treasurerís office.)

As a local business owner of nearly 40 years, I started an independent initiative to reduce that spending. One hundred thirty percent in eight years is excessive, when population has only grown 31 percent in the same period according to census data. The student population in schools has stabilized recently according to a school board member. There is no reason for such extravagance in county government. Budget information comes from the Chatham report to the treasurer for the state of North Carolina.

A survey is posted online for Chatham citizens and taxpayers to register their opinions on the topic. To access this survey, Chatham property owners may go to the URL, and click on "Chatham Resident Survey." Petitions are being distributed around the county to collect signatures of those who oppose the current increases in spending. The responses to the survey indicate two facts. First, taxpayers are unaware of the spending trend. Second, once educated, most are against it. Tommy Emerson, chairman of Chatham Alliance for Non-partisan (CAN) and former county commissioner, said, "Tom has earned a lot of respect in the community and has something of value to say."

The group, Financial Accountability for Chatham Taxpayers (FACT), has supporters of the petition and awaits the results of the survey. The survey is also circulated by Chatham Conservative Voice and the Republican Party of Chatham.

Former county commissioner and mayor of Siler City, John Grimes, said, "Tom does his research. When he makes a statement, you can bet that it is right."

One county employee, who shall remain nameless, said, "Someone has to do something about this spending."

I want to have one thousand signatures and supporters behind this initiative. With that support, the commissioners should listen. That many voters will influence any election and effect the votes of others."

In the next few months, I will present the proposal to the county commissioners. It outlines a plan to reduce the total spending by 15 percent, and the property tax portion of that by 22.5 percent over three years. Since each department receives pass-through funds from the state and federal governments at differing amounts, cuts will have to vary in each one. Seven and one-half percent per year reduction is the target. I hope that the commission will respect the wishes of the taxpayers and understand that such practices do not serve them well when jobs are being lost.

For over 30 years businesses and industries have been leaving the county. Siler City is nearly a ghost town. The county Economic Development Commission has not been able to bring any jobs here. If they did, then we would have some tangible benefits for our tax dollars. Most of our working population commutes out of the county. Without new business and industry migrating here, the tax burden falls on residential property owners. We are not receiving services commensurate with taxes levied. The tax increase certainly exceeds the demand created by the population increase."

While most people focus on tax rate and property values, they ignore the fact that spending is the root cause of tax bills. In this recent but predictable downturn, the government should respond with cuts in spending, not expansion without benefit. All fiscal data ought to be reported, as in a year-end statement from a publicly traded company. We should not have to fight for this information. County employees are our neighbors, not our enemies. They should be proud of any work they do for us, not ashamed."

For more information, contact Tom Glendinning, PO Box 12, Pittsboro, N.C. 27312 or email

Tom Glendinning is a Chatham businessman and long-time resident.

P.O. BOX 1357 · CARRBORO, NC 27510 · 919.740.5231 ·