Jobs and taxation were major topics addressed during the first debate for the five Republican candidates running for Commissioner.
While four of the candidates said that creating new jobs would be a priority if elected, said that is not something that government should be responsible for.
“There is no doubt our county is struggling like it hasn’t in decades,” Bearden said. “We have a serious need to attract new investment.”
Taxation was an issue that all candidates included in their top three priorities for their first year in office. Taxes need to be kept low, said.
“There are many other ways to bring in tax revenue besides property taxes,” the owner of said.
Bartow County Building Official said that whoever is elected has to find ways to save money without raising taxes.
However, when asked, the candidates said they would not sign a pledge vowing not to raise taxes while in office.
“You don’t know what the future holds,” said owner , whose platform includes cutting services before increasing taxes.
Lewis said she wouldn’t be able to cut services but that there are other ways to build tax revenue, such as through economic development, tourism and Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenues generated by those who pass through Bartow County.
“Of course, (not raising taxes) is the plan,” Lewis said. “That is what we want to do. (But), the devil is in the details.”
said that he hates to see teachers hurting and county employees going without raises because of the lack of revenue from property taxes.
“I’m willing to pay a little bit more in a hard time,” he said. “I’m willing to do what I have to do to help Bartow County.”
On a related topic, all but one of the candidates gave the county’s economic development department “A’s” for their efforts to bring more business to Bartow County. Lewis said Bartow likely lost the Lowe’s distribution center to Floyd County because Floyd had money set aside to offer incentives and abatements. That type of “closing the deal fund” is something that Bartow needs, Lewis said.
Bearden was the only candidate who didn’t grade the economic development department. He said that economic development is “not good enough” and that he would need to re-evaluate its practices.
The candidates also were asked about their positions regarding the sale of alcohol on Sundays in the county. Abernathy, who has pastored several churches in the area, said that he’s not against someone wanting to drink alcohol but that Sunday is the only day of reverence. If Sunday sales were put on the ballot and approved, though, Abernathy said he would tax the sales as much as possible.
“Sunday sales are not that important,” he said. “They’re not helping that much.”
Several candidates said that, while it’s not something they personally agree with, they wouldn’t stand in the way of a vote if that’s what the residents want.
“All we have to do is vote ‘No’ and it won’t happen,” Taylor said. “It’s the people’s voice that really counts.”
Lewis said that Sunday sales isn’t a religious issue. Bartow County is lagging behind since the has approved the sale of alcohol on Sundays.
“If we are behind because we’re not allowing it, then it’s something we need to let the people decide,” Lewis said. “If that’s what the people want, then it will be put on the ballot.”
The Republican primary is scheduled for July 31 and NewsTalk 1270 WYXC is is set to sponsor another debate between the five in June.