Matthew Ridenhour District 5 questionnaire

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - WBTV's Sharon Smith sent a questionnaire to candidates running for the District 5 seat.

Matthew Ridenhour's answers are below.

Explain where you stand on the property revaluation process. Do you think it needs to be improved?

The process certainly needs to be improved. I have met people who are going to put their homes up for sale because they cannot afford the new tax rate. This is unacceptable, and encourages "Mecklenburg Flight" to Union, Gaston, and York counties. This also discourages businesses and people to relocate to Mecklenburg, and makes us less competitive with surrounding counties. I would like to explore the idea of an independent outside agency conducting the revaluations in the future. The county has a natural bias to inflate the property valuations, because the county needs revenue for its programs. I believe an outside agency conducting the revaluations would not have this natural bias, and may therefore provide more accurate property valuations.

Where do your budget priorities fall? Are there areas where you see the county could save money?

My priority is with the budget as a whole. The reason we saw the property valuations skyrocket is because the county needs more revenue to continue to fund its responsibilities and programs. My approach to budgeting, unique among my colleagues, is zero-based budgeting. Currently, the county budget is carried over from year to year, with adjustments made based on current economic factors. Zero-based budgeting begins a budget at $0, and all line item additions to the budget must be justified based on efficiency of the program, and return on investment to the taxpayer. Governments that have utilized zero-based budgeting have identified under-performing programs and wasteful government spending. Zero-based budgeting works, and will decrease our county spending. If we can decrease the county's spending, then we can lower taxes.

Where do you stand on consolidation?

I am against city/county consolidation. Where there is duplication of services, I would be in favor of consolidating those departments. However, I believe that consolidating the county and city governments will lead to centralized power, potential corruption, and more opportunity for waste, fraud, and abuse to occur.

County Commissioners have been criticized for their inability to get along at times. How would you improve communication and relationships?

People will find that I am a pragmatic thinker and decision-maker. I believe this quality naturally lends itself to a healthy, productive working relationship with colleagues. I tend to be a consensus-builder, as well. My experience in the Marine Corps has been that people are more prone to give a task their full commitment when they have buy-in, and feel as though they are a stakeholder. I would work tirelessly to build relationships with other board members, and especially work hard to find common ground with those on the other side of the aisle. The people send Commissioners to government to do the people's work--not to put personal feelings or vendettas ahead of other priorities.

Is there one issue or concern that motivated you to enter the race more than any other? 

Mecklenburg County is full of so many wonderful opportunities for her citizens. We have great communities such as NoDa with its thriving arts culture, and impressive parks and green spaces such as the newly completed section of the Little Sugar Creek Greenway. However, we are also the highest taxed county in the state, and one of the highest in the Southeast. This discourages businesses and people from moving here, which stifles our growth potential and encourages "Mecklenburg Flight" to surrounding counties. I am motivated to serve the people on County Commission because I believe we can find ways to streamline the county's services, cut costs, and save the taxpayers' dollars. Zero-based budgeting has been proven to do this, and I would continually push to cut costs where we can, without diminishing the quality of life for Mecklenburg County residents. "Business as usual" is not working, and I believe I offer the citizens of District 5 real leadership, and real solutions.