The Wake Weekly asked several local primary candidates questions on jobs, education and budgeting. Their answers were lightly edited for grammar length.
What is your background and how will that make you a good fit to be on the Board of Commissioners?
HUTCHINSON: I am so proud to be known in Wake County for my longtime efforts to preserve open space, expand the greenway system, and make communities healthy and livable. I am proud to successfully have led seven bond referendums totaling more than $400 million in Wake County and the city of Raleigh for open space preservation, parks, greenways, transportation and affordable housing. Since being elected in 2014, I have had a track record of getting things done, which include passing a $2.3 billion transit referendum in 2016. I love doing this work, which is making the lives of our citizens better every day.
Wake County continues to raise property taxes each year, and property values are going up. Has the county reached the point where it should consider ending tax hikes, or even lowering the tax rate?
HUTCHINSON: I continue to be concerned about higher taxes, which is why, for the last two years, I have voted against adding $10 million more to the budget, or about 1 cent on the tax rate. In the previous four years, property taxes have increased by close to 30% — all of which has gone to fund our public education system. Whereas I am a huge supporter of public education, including the highest teacher salary supplement in North Carolina, I continue to be concerned with keeping our tax rate low for our citizens and especially seniors.
Eastern Wake County (Wendell, Zebulon and Knightdale) is sometimes called the “final frontier of Wake County” regarding growth and development. What specific transportation or infrastructure projects/policies should the county consider to support these communities as they brace for expected explosive growth?
HUTCHINSON: I am chair of N.C. Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and vice-chair of GoTriangle, as well as highly involved in these issues, including adding more transit and transportation options to our eastern municipalities and the completion of Interstate 540. I’m working with our mayors to add more greenways to eastern Wake County and then connect these greenways to the existing 250-mile greenway system. A lot is happening on the transportation front and I look forward to continuing to lead the way towards more transportation options and infrastructure spending.
Public school enrollment is slowing in the face of competition from private and charter schools; meanwhile, the school board has requested larger increases to its operating budget. How would you support the public school system, and what considerations would you have when you review the school’s budget?
HUTCHINSON: The real issue with public education spending is that the General Assembly isn’t doing enough. By constitution, it’s the responsibility of the General Assembly to fully fund public education, which is two-thirds of the education budget.
Wake County’s one-third is a supplement. It is now 57% of our budget — with the highest teacher supplement in North Carolina, which means we are getting the highest quality teachers. We also have the highest per-pupil spending in the history of the county. Can we do more? Sure, we can do more and we need to overtime, but I am also very interested in continuing to keep our taxes low and the public education system accountable for its spending.
What other issues are important to you and how would you address them if elected?
HUTCHINSON: Transportation and transit: We all know that traffic congestion continues to get worse. As chair of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and vice-chair of Go Triangle, the regional transit agency, I’ve been on the front lines of investing billions of dollars in highway construction and transit, including working on the completion of I-540 and implementing the $2.3 billion transit plan.
Growth, sustainability and affordability: Growth and sustainability continue to be a front-burner issue to maintain our quality of life as one of the best places to live in American today, including great recreation opportunities and keeping our water clean and abundant. Specifically, I have been working on a long-term comprehensive land use plan; a 100-year sustainable water supply plan; and implementing the $120 million Open Space, Parks, and Greenway Bond. Finally, as Chair of the Upper Neuse River Basin Association (Falls Lake Reservoir), we’re working to keep our drinking water clean and abundant.