Involvement in your community *
* Deacon, Blue Creek Baptist Church
* Broker Assoc., C21 Champion Real Estate
* Member, ONWASA, Water/Sewer Board
* Member, local Transportation Planning Board
* Member, JOED Econ. Development Board
* Chairman, Salvation Army Advisory Board
* Local small business owner
* Member, Onslow Memorial Hospital Board
* Founding Member, New River YMCA Board
* Vice-Chairman, Onslow Strong Disaster Recovery Alliance
Questions and Answers:
Why are you running for County Commissioner?
I am seeking re-election to my second term as Onslow County Commissioner because I enjoy working to bring about change for the better for all in our communities. We’ve accomplished a lot already – • reduced costs, yet retained high level of services • private property protections • public safety/disaster planning • improved communications with citizens, cities, others • increased law enforcement, animal control staffing • stabilized school funding, while new schools are built • public health issues – new crisis clinic, hospital partnership with UNC Health, opioid lawsuits There’s more that needs doing throughout our county, from • ensuring fire protection services • planning for landfill expansion needs • accommodating population growth with comprehensive planning • assuring economic development and healthy communities And overall is the pressing need to find an equitable solution to easing the taxpayer’s burden of paying for unfunded mandates handed down from the State. The State does not allow our County any means of paying for these mandates, other than taxing property. Onslow County is unique in so many ways, but in this case of unfunded State mandates, we are at a disadvantage. Nearly 40 per cent of the property in Onslow County is government owned, and therefore -- not taxable. (And much of that untaxed property is very valuable waterfront.) This means, then, that 60 percent of the property owners must shoulder the burden of paying for one-hundred percent of the State’s mandates. Compare that scenario to our neighbors in Carteret County, where they have almost $2-BILLION more in tax valuation than Onslow County, yet only a third of the population. I am a team player, and hope you will join me in changing this inequitable situation. I welcome your vote, as well as your ideas and commitment.
If elected, what would you do to stay transparent as an elected official?
I will continue to remain available all, committed to open and honest government. I’m always out and about in our communities, glad to meet and talk with anyone who has an interest or concern. • My door is always open. • My email is Royce@RoyceBennett.com or send me a Facebook message. • I’m only a call away – 910-389-9638. Three years ago, when I first took office as Onslow County Commissioner, regular, open communications between the County and citizens as well as our municipalities were inadequate, causing misunderstandings. That’s all changed for the better, and I’ll work to keep it that way -- • Board decisions made in open, public forums • Board meetings televised and streamed on social media • Citizen participation encouraged • Fair and balanced access to information by media and public .
How would you help to bring economic growth to Onslow County?
Among my adjunct responsibilities as Onslow County Commissioner, I serve on three boards that are committed to the economic growth in our communities • As Vice-Chair of ONWASA (Onslow Water and Sewer Authority), we are working to provide water and sewer infrastructure in our growing communities, to encourage business and light industry development and jobs. • At JOED (Jacksonville/Onslow Economic Development) Partnership, we are working to bring in new business as well as encouraging local existing businesses with strategic planning. We are also working to solve “leakage” – wherein Onslow county residents make purchases in another county, but their sales tax dollars are retained by that County. • Serving on the Metropolitan Planning Organization, Transportation Advisory Committee, we look at growth trends and plan for needed infrastructure in areas of economic growth. We can further encourage growth and broaden our economic base by reducing unnecessary regulations and implementing realistic zoning and land use planning for Onslow County. As commissioners, we have formed a task force in cooperation with the City of Jacksonville to study the feasibility of building a sports complex that would bring new revenue to Onslow County through tournaments and recreational opportunities for our residents. Monies that are earmarked specifically for such a venture would be utilized. Onslow County Commissioners, city officials and the U.S. Marine Corps are discussing public access to the Navy Railway, which would be a significant benefit to all our communities. Our Albert J, Ellis Airport is an asset to our local economy. I will continue to support airport improvements that boost our economy. I will support state, local and public-private grant opportunities that help bring new businesses or industries into Onslow County and those that help grow our existing ones. I believe that growing the economy is the best way for us to increase our tax base to support our population growth. I will consider every opportunity for growth to better serve our communities and provide sustainable livelihoods and protections for our farms and fisheries.
How do you plan to address Onslow County’s overcrowded school system?
We must continue to increase capital funding to our County’s school system and build new schools to accommodate the significant growth that is occurring. Not only are we burdened with the increase of over 300 new students per year, but State mandated class size reductions are actually causing the student capacity of our existing schools to decrease every year. We have implemented a funding agreement with Onslow County School District that will increase capital funding in the coming years. We must also work with our state legislature to address the class size mandate and to provide a more equitable funding source. Furthermore, we must work with our Congressional delegation to improve federal funding assistance for the thousands of military-related students in our system.
What is the largest issue our community faces and how do you plan to address it?
Besides the issues that have already been discussed, such as school overcrowding and population growth, • Our volunteer fire departments are struggling due to lack of volunteers. Many efforts are being made to encourage volunteerism and to sustain these public servants. But state regulations that require more stringent training and equipment, and the transient nature of much of our populace, necessitate that we increase support for these departments annually. We must find a solution to this, without it becoming a budget buster. • Another major issue is expansion of our landfill. It is estimated that we have about five years of capacity left. Expansion will cost millions of dollars. It is absolutely essential that we find a way to fund the impending expansion. • Finally, I am committed to solving the inequity to Onslow County property owners of the burden unfunded State mandates. Right now, 60 percent of Onslow County property owners are paying the entire cost of more and more new regulations imposed each year on our county by the State. As I earlier described, it will take all of us working together – our State legislators and officials, our local residents and business persons, all elected officials. It can – and must – be done. I look forward to working with you all to make this change for the better.
Commissioner Royce Bennett