BOYLES: Our priorities are on the ballot

Wayne County Elections Director Anne Risku prepares absentee ballots at the Wayne County Board of Elections office on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, in Goldsboro, N.C. (AP Photo/Hannah Schoenbaum)

I have a few questions about the new Aquatic Center being built on Fayetteville Road, just a few miles from Cumberland County. The Center has a large pool and a smaller pool and several offices and basketball courts. I heard of a website called Moody’s that lists business and financial information to find the credit rating for Hoke County. According to the website, Hoke County has a good credit rating.

Our County Commissioners did not ask the taxpayers of Hoke County if they wanted this facility, nor were the taxpayers told about where the money would come from to repay the loans. The lack of transparency on this project is appalling, especially when it comes to how it will be financed and by whom.

According to the county’s website, the Commissioners borrowed $39.7 million to be repaid in full in the year 2052. That is 30 years of principal and interest payments on the taxpayers of little Hoke County. The cost to operate and insure this enterprise is all at the taxpayers’ expense, and the price tag is much higher than expected. Our leaders didn’t ask the citizens if they wanted to pay for this Aquatic Center.

Hoke County is growing because of our active and retiring military and our small-town charm. With people coming, many homes are being built with very little new industry. New homes bring more children to educate, and we need more schools now.

The decision was made to only have one high school that will house and educate approximately 6,000 children a year. And the current high school is in disrepair. To me, this spells trouble with overcrowding and possibly less education for our children’s future. A new high school is needed in the eastern part of our county near the Sandy Grove or Rockfish area. One of our political candidates has said, “do we want more pools or schools”? He further states that we already have a $39.7 million debt. Do we want to add to that?

Another item the taxpayers will be considering soon is the need for a new courthouse. Our 100-year-old courthouse has seen its better days and, when considering the loan for a new structure, adds more debt to the $39.7 million.

Our financial obligations are increasing and putting more of a strain on the taxpayers. These decisions are reprehensible, done in reverse.

There are so many smaller, more efficient ways to benefit Hoke County citizens. We need a regulation soccer field. We need to establish better care for our animals. We need the best police protection needed for our growing population. 

The future of Hoke County is on the ballot right now. We can choose free-spending leaders or a more fiscally responsible path that helps people but doesn’t mortgage our future to do it. 

Johnny Boyles lives in Raeford, N.C.