May 252012

Great schools are key to economic future

Union County has no professional sports arena, research triangle, or major university. We are not known as a financial center, a tourist destination, or technology hub.

Yet, even in the absence of attractions like these, we have been one of the fastest growing counties in the United States. Some will tell you it is because the taxes are lower; some will claim it is the small-town rural feel; but MOST will tell you it is because of the reputation and performance of the school system.

Our schools have become a very high-profile draw for residential growth which, in turn, leads to retail growth and creates the labor market for industrial growth. This ultimately translates to new business and jobs, a more vibrant economy, lower unemployment, and a better quality of life — all of which were direct promises made in the last election.

Because we don’t have the other typical inducements, the quality of education drives the entire economic health of this County. That, in turn, determines the revenues, the tax base, and ultimately, the tax rate. The issue of school funding has been discussed, spiritedly debated, and is very emotional for a lot of people. It affects not only those that have school-aged children, but every citizen in this county in terms of property values and the desirability of this County to others, today and in the future.

It strikes me that every time there is a disagreement on an issue, Commissioner Rogers and I are accused of “playing politics.” Well look around. This is the government and this is a political board—everything we do is politics. However, I did find my flyer from when I ran four years ago, and it states very clearly that I stand for “funded schools” and “continued emphasis on education.” I am not “playing”.  I am standing up for what I said I would and for what the people are continuing to tell us they want from their elected officials. The current proposal of one-time funding of teacher assistants, while not the most desirable solution, is quite simple. We have the means to help stop, or at least delay, this damage to our children’s education and the overall quality of life to the citizens of this county.

We can pass the buck and the blame, get hung up on semantics and control, or we can decide to preserve and protect the number one economic driver in this county and take care of our kids and our future! It has been said that the monies from the hospital belong to the taxpayers — to the people.

So far, the only request that I have heard via email or public comment is to preserve the integrity of the school system — especially for our youngest children. The voices of the people have been very clear, very consistent, and very specific. I believe we have two more meetings before we must adopt the budget and I urge every Commissioner to put personalities and blame aside, revisit the promises they have made and priorities they claim to have and do the right thing in the name of our children.

Tracy Kuehler
Union County

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