SMART ramps up efforts with vote approaching

The South Mecklenburg Alliance of Responsible Taxpayers, otherwise known as SMART, is asking locals what they care about most this election season. The result so far boils down to how much cash is getting taken out of locals’ pockets.

The advocacy group, which first formed last year in the Raintree area of south Charlotte, recently started asking people what their biggest concerns are, how effective they feel local government is, and what they feel SMART should be focused on. The results so far, according to one group organizer, shows that south Charlotte residents are very concerned about government spending and taxation heading into November.

“People’s hair is on fire about taxes, spending and debt,” said Tim Timmerman, a SMART organizer.

Those taking the survey so far are most concerned about county and city spending, especially in light of the city’s recent plan to spend $926 million on capital investment projects. That plan was defeated earlier this summer, but is expected to come up for another vote next budget year. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being “seriously concerned” nearly everyone taking the survey so far listed county and city as a 5. Next in the survey was taxes, with an average of 4.82, then city and county debt, at 4.69, and the property tax revaluation, at 4.6. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System, area crime and roads and a Voter Identification law rounded out the list.

Those taking the survey also used it as an opportunity to show their displeasure in local government. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being “very effective,” Charlotte City Council got an average of 1.8, followed by N.C. Sen. Bob Rucho, at 2.56, local state House leaders at 2.69 and Mecklenburg County commissioners at 3.43.

As for what SMART should be focused on, those taking the survey want SMART members to help get out the vote. Timmerman said the group will spend the next few months trying to educate area voters on the issues and candidates in a non-partisan way, though he admits many members of the group tend to lean toward the Tea Party. But he says that won’t influence the group’s efforts to just get voters of all affiliation out to vote in November.

“We want people educated on local levels as well as the state level,” Timmerman said. “I think an informed, involved electorate will make the right decisions.”

The SMART survey is still available, and Timmerman said he hopes more people will take it so the group can get a feeling on how local concerns change over time. Find the survey online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/JTFWWBP.

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