Important local elections are coming in May. May 8 to be exact. That’s primary election day – when Orange County citizens elect new county commissioners and Orange County school board members.
So what? Well for starters, county commissioners control local funding for both Orange County and Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools. If schools are important to you, that’s about half of the money for teacher salaries and all of the funding for school buildings.
County commissioners are also responsible for affordable housing and job creation everywhere outside of town limits. They also control social services, senior centers, recycling, courts, parks, and a host of other resources in and outside of town.
The county pays for all this through the county portion of your property taxes and school taxes — all of which are decided by the county commissioners.
In addition, the county levies solid waste and recycling fees, permitting fees and a small portion of the sales taxes to fund local services and facilities.
Three county commissioner seats are up for election – one at-large (serving all of the county) and one in each District. District 1 corresponds roughly to Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools; District 2 serves households in the Orange County Schools district.
Unlike town and school board elections, the county commissioner election is partisan and has always been decided in the Democratic primary. Registered Democrats and Unaffiliated voters can vote in the Democratic primary. Registered Republicans cannot. That’s one reason that many voters in Orange County register as “Unaffiliated.”
You can register during early voting. Changes in party affiliation must be completed 25 days before the election. For more information on voter registration, visit the Board of Elections website.
The Orange County school board election will also be decided on May 8 . The school board controls policy for curriculum, school spending, and academic performance. Four out of seven school board seats are up for election. The school board contest is a non-partisan election, so all of the candidates will show up on every ballot.
For the first time, the Clerk of the Superior Court will be contested in the primary. In Orange County, again, that’s the Democratic primary. The clerk is responsible for record keeping for the Superior and District Courts, and hearing special proceedings such as adoption, guardianship and estates; and can hear guilty pleas on minor offenses.
Keep an eye out for forums and other opportunities to meet the candidates and learn where they stand on issues that are important to you. Your vote counts only if you cast it. Please remember to vote on May 8.
Bonnie Hauser lives in Orange County