Advocacy group pushes candidates on taxes, de-annexing

SMART isn’t pulling any punches with its candidate survey.

The South Mecklenburg Association of Responsible Taxpayers group wants to know if the city’s future leaders feel south Charlotte is getting a fair shake when it comes to taxing and spending. The group, which grew out of a gathering of concerned taxpayers in the Raintree area a few years ago, has focused on a number of topics in its short existence – such as should the Ballantyne area form its own town or should Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools be split into smaller districts – but the issues always come back to one main point: making someone answer for how south Charlotte residents’ taxes are spent.

“(Locals) basically want politicians to be accountable,” said Tim Timmerman, a SMART organizer, after seeing how residents have answered the same survey SMART sent to candidates. “They are for less taxes and … there’s a good, strong majority that agree that the rest of the city isn’t paying its fair share and that (south Charlotte isn’t) getting our fair share in terms of infrastructure and the city is redistributing (taxes).”

Now, the group is hoping to use the crowded election field as a chance to remind future leaders about what some in south Charlotte say are issues that need to be addressed.

The survey, which Timmerman said was sent to candidates for Charlotte City Council District 6 (SouthPark area) and District 7 (Ballantyne area), focuses mostly on the size of government, Charlotte spending and the future of the Ballantyne area when it comes to its relationship with uptown Charlotte. Candidates were asked specifically if they think south Charlotte gets “its fair share for maintenance of its roads/infrastructure” and if “it is more important to retain the current city boundaries than to allow south Charlotte to de-annex.”

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat, Republican or Independent,” Timmerman said. “These are some of the issues that are bubbling around down here, whether you agree or disagree.”

The issue of where south Charlotte should and does play into the city as a whole has been a growing debate recently, with Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners member Bill James calling for Ballantyne to form its own town and Charlotte City Council member Warren Cooksey hosting a forum to discuss what it would take to complete such an endeavor. It’s unclear what, if any, tax break residents in the new town would receive from such a move or what services the town would still have to pay for from Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.

SMART’s candidate questionnaire will shed light on where the candidates stand regarding Ballantyne’s membership in the Charlotte club. SMART also is asking people on its contact list to take the survey to see how the two sides compare.

Timmerman hopes the survey will at least remind candidates of the concerns SMART has about south Charlotte. At least one of the city council candidates, Jay Privette, has previously been an active member in the association.

“This is more than just a survey to smoke out candidates” on where they stand, Timmerman said, adding the key for SMART is educating voters and getting the word out about issues many in south Charlotte are concerned about.

“I just get disgusted with the quote-unquote ‘apathy’ down here,” Timmerman said. “People don’t seem interested in anything other than going home at night and closing the garage door.”

Six of the Republican candidates in Charlotte City Council District 6 and 7 responded to SMART’s survey.

Find the survey online at www.survey monkey.com/s/NR2WK2P. Find more information on SMART, and see the candidates’ answers to the survey, at www.facebook.com/12.smart.

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