OCV Newsletter, March 2014   
Dear Neighbor:

Let's begin with a big shout out to our emergency response agencies, both paid and volunteer,  who worked side by side with citizens to help everyone weather the most recent storm.  As power was gradually restored to rural Orange County, we all had reason to feel especially grateful for the rapid and coordinated response of these dedicated professionals and volunteers.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation will continue clearing storm debris on DOT maintained roads.  For more information, click here.

We'd like to inform you of an upcoming initiative by United Voices of Efland, being organized in partnership with Orange County Justice United, to assist our communities in better preparing for future emergencies.  For more information, please see Are You Ready for the Next Emergency? in the Upcoming Events section of this newsletter.

This March newsletter may be a bit shorter than others, but provides information on two important subjects:  the upcoming hearings on the county's proposed Service District Tax for Rural Recycling and the upcoming May Primary Election, including the impact recent changes in North Carolina's voting laws may have on the county's citizenry and election calendar.  
In This Issue
Upcoming Events
Citizen Action Needed on Service District Tax for Curbside Recycling
New Voter Laws and Exciting Races in May Primary Election

Upcoming Events    

  • Sheriff's Candidates Forums:  
    • Friday, March 14, from 7:00-9:00pm at Gravelly Hill Middle School, 4801 West Ten Road, Efland.  Sponsored by Greg Andrews and the Efland Ruritan Club.   
    • Wednesday, April 16, from 6:30-7:45pm, at the Chapel Hill Public Library, Meeting Room B, Library Road, Chapel Hill.  Hosted by the Orange County Democratic Party.
  • Orange Grove Fire Station 3 Open House:  Sunday, March 16, from 2:00-4:00pm, at 4725 Nicks Road, Mebane.
  • Public Hearings on Rural Curbside Recycling Tax:  
    • Tuesday, March 18, at 6:00pm, at the Southern Human Services Center, 2501 Homestead Road, Chapel Hill.   
    • Tuesday, April 1, at 6:00pm, at the Department of Social Services Center, Hillsborough Commons, 113 Mayo Street, Hillsborough.
  • Are You Ready for the Next Emergency?:  Saturday, March 29, 1:00-2:30pm, at the Efland-Cheeks Community Center, 117 Richmond Road, Mebane.  Sponsored by United Voices of Efland, in partnership with Orange County Justice United.  Click here for more details.
  • Voter Registration for May Primary Election Ends:  Friday, April 11.  For a full list of state and local races and candidates, click here.  For voter registration information and forms, click here.
  • Early Voting Begins:  Thursday, April 24.
  • Primary Election:  Tuesday, May 6. 

Citizen Action Needed on Proposed Service District Tax for Rural Recycling     

 

Over the objections of most citizens living in the unincorporated parts of the county, the county commissioners have decided to pursue a service district tax for rural curbside recycling. The tax replaces the $38 fee for bi-weekly rural curbside recycling, which was waived in 2013, when the county learned that it had no authority to levy a mandatory curbside collection fee.

 

This ad valorem tax is called a "Solid Waste Service District Tax" and the amount of the tax is based on the value of your home and property.  The rate is expected to initially be set at 1.5 cents per $100 valuation - or $45 a year for a $300,000 property.  It's in addition to other county trash and recycling fees, now set at $87 a year - and increasing annually.

If levied, the proposed tax can also increase, and is likely to do so as the county continues to adjust to the closing of the landfill.  There are no proposed policies for controlling the tax rate or costs of service.  

The tax would be levied on most properties in the county's unincorporated areas.  The proposed service area is 18,000 parcels (up from 12,500 parcels).  The tax would be levied on taxable parcels only, including undeveloped land.  Tax-exempt organizations that use curbside recycling will not be taxed.  For a map of the service district, see page 166 (click here).    

Households within the county's towns will not be impacted by this tax. Separately, town leaders are pursuing an interlocal agreement with the county to provide curbside recycling service for a flat fee.  Town leaders are not required to use the county's service, and would have the option of pursuing alternatives if the county's fees become too high or if users become dissatisfied with the service.  By contrast, residents in unincorporated areas will be forced to pay the tax, regardless of the circumstances.

Households who are in the proposed service district have been notified, and two public hearings have been scheduled - one on Tuesday, March 17; the other on Tuesday, April 1.  OCV joins many community organizations in viewing this proposed tax as ineffective fiscal policy that ignores the service needs and priorities of the unincorporated areas.  Our opinion is based on the following:
  • Residents in the unincorporated areas of the county recycle heavily, making considerable use of the county's five solid waste convenience centers.  These centers provide, by far, the most effective recycling program in the county.    
  • Curbside recycling works best for suburban-style neighborhoods with short driveways and paved roads.  Of the families served, 57% use the service, and users are concentrated in suburban-style neighborhoods with trash collection.  Active curbside users prefer weekly service.
  • The tax imposes an unfair tax burden on thousands of households who recycle but don't use curbside services.  The service is ineffective for the many families who have long gravel roads and driveways, and the tax is unfair to those who prefer - and pay for - convenience centers. 
  • Rural recycling and composting rates are high, and a new, mandatory tax for redundant services will not contribute to the county's waste reduction goals.

Residents throughout the unincorporated areas are growing frustrated with the county's use of misleading data, lack of transparency about options and costs, and inability to find more creative and simpler ways to fund its rural curbside recycling program.  The county has not educated its citizens on alternative funding and service options; nor have they discussed likely increases in all solid waste and recycling fees.

 

One alternative to the proposed mandatory tax is to levy a simple, voluntary fee, and allow homeowners who don't want the service to opt out.  OCV has joined 25 other groups in supporting this "opt out" option, which could easily be implemented - without a public hearing - at least until the county and towns sort out more pressing issues related to recycling services and fees.  For more, click here.  

 

Another alternative is to extend the town's weekly curbside service to the suburban neighborhoods in the unincorporated areas, under a voluntary fee option.  Weekly service seems to be a better fit for families who truly use the service.

 

Please consider speaking out on this issue at one of the upcoming hearings:

  • Tuesday, March 18, at 6:00pm, at the Southern Human Services Center, 2501 Homestead Road, in Chapel Hill
  • Tuesday, April 1, at 6:00pm, at the Department of Social Services Center, Hillsborough Commons, 113 Mayo Street, in Hillsborough

Please remind the commissioners about your own commitment to recycling and waste reduction, and let them know how you feel about rural curbside recycling service.  Indicate whether you support funding it with a voluntary fee or with the proposed mandatory service district tax, and whether you believe the proposed policies are equitable.  

 

You can also write to the country commissioners (for contact information, please click here).

 
New Voter Laws and Exciting Races in May Primary Election

 

The May 6 Primary Election brings a highly contested sheriff's race, two contested commissioner races, and contested races for Register of Deeds and Orange County School Board.  The outcome of these local races will be decided in the Democratic Primary and will be impacted by the new voting laws passed by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2013.  In both the Democratic and Republican primaries, there are contested races for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

For a full list of state and local races, as well as candidates, click here.

 

Here's some of what you need to know:

  • Registered Democrats or Independents (unaffiliated voters) may vote in the Democratic Primary
  • Citizens must be registered to vote by April 11 (25 days before the election), in order to vote in the May 6 Primary Election.
  • "Same Day Voting" is no longer allowed in North Carolina; due to changes in the law, you may no longer register and vote on the same day.
  • The length of the "Early Voting" has been shortened; Early Voting for the May 6 Primary Election begins on Thursday, April 24.
  • A Photo ID will NOT be required in order to vote in the May 6 Primary Election.

For voter registration information and forms, click here.

We will continue to keep you informed on these and other important issues.  In the meantime, if you have news or an event that you would like us to include in our newsletter, please contact Nick Davis.

 

Thank you for your continued support for Orange County Voice and the rural community.
  

Sincerely,

The OCV Board
Alex Castro, Jr., Chair, alexcastrojr@hotmail.com 
Nick Davis, Vice-Chair, nickdavis80@gmail.com 
Tish Galu, Treasurer,  galump@centurylink.net 
Norma White, Secretary, n.b.white@embarqmail.com 
Mike Hughes, mmh@mmhpe.com
                                                                                               
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.  - Margaret Mead
 
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