Commissioner says she’s embarrassed colleagues want to go out of town for three-day conference

Commissioner says she’s embarrassed colleagues want to go out of town for three-day conference

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Mecklenburg County Commissioner Pat Cotham is concerned the Board of County Commissioners agreed Tuesday night to have a three-day conference out of town. It will take place in January at the Grandover Resort and Spa in Greensboro.

"I'm embarrassed that we are going to go to a fancy resort," Cotham said. "A fancy conference in Greensboro and our local vendors won't have a chance."

Cotham would rather have local businesses have a chance to make some money. She believes the county could patronize them during the conference.

Last year the county spent around $7,000 on a conference held at Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC).

The commissioner is also concerned next month property owners will find out if they will have to pay more in taxes through the revaluation program.

Cotham says going out of town for a conference where tax dollars will be spent on food and a two night hotel stay is bad timing.

"I don't think it's a good optic for us," Cotham said. "Especially in January - we are going to be sending out the revaluation notices and that's going to make people nervous and then we are going to go to a fancy place in Greensboro."

County Commissioner Mark Jerrell has no problem with the county spending the money for the conference. He says it is needed and will be money well spent. He believes having time for the new board to know each other will make a difference.

“Certainly we want to use the taxpayers’ dollars wisely,” Jerrell said. “But with the new board we are all trying to know each other. I think a benefit if we are able to move off site - get to know each - as opposed to the restrictions of an 8 to 5.”

County Manager Dena Diorio says the county has the money to pay for the conference and says the revaluation is no reason to cancel the plans.

"What the property tax rate is going to be in fiscal year '20 does not have any bearing on what we're doing in fiscal year '19," County Manager Dena Diorio said. "What we are doing is preparing to be able to be effective - to be able to work on the reval and work on the budget for fiscal year '20."

Diorio also adds for the past 12 years she has worked with the county - commissioners have never gone out of town for a retreat.

"The county's actually been the conservative one all these years," Diorio said. "In the fact that we haven't done one - this is the year - it's important that we do it."

Jerrell says there will be transparency. The meetings will be streamed live so taxpayers can see how commissioners are handling the people's business while they are out of town.

Diorio said her staff will come up with ways to cut costs. Cotham believes the only way to cut the cost is keep the conference in town.

“I’m embarrassed about it,” Cotham said. “I just don’t think it’s right.”

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