Editor’s note: Republican incumbent John Gilleland is running unopposed for the office of Mayor. The Times-News submitted 10 questions to each of the candidates in the upcoming city elections. Gilleland’s responses are listed below.
Why are you running for office?
Gilleland: I am running for re-election because I have enjoyed serving the citizens of Lincolnton and I think there is more to do.
Do you have a goal that you would first-and-foremost like to see attained if you are elected?
Gilleland: My number one goal is to sell more water. We have a large amount of debt in our water budget and we must sell more water to work our way out of this issue.
The City of Lincolnton, like many other municipalities across the U.S., has been forced to contend with diminishing revenue and increasing costs. What do you view as the best solution to this issue, in both the long and short term?
Gilleland: The best way to raise revenues is to make Lincolnton an appealing place to run a business or to live. The tax base must be increased and new business is the quickest way to increase tax revenue. We must also continue to work initiatives that cut costs such as two major successes over the past four years: 1) Increased deductibles with city insurances saving our city over $100,000/year. 2) Recycling brought in-house saving over $150,000/year.
One of the most contentious issues in city politics recently was the implementation of a $10 fee for garbage collection. The fee was first cut in half, and then repealed entirely. What is your opinion of the garbage fee, and the public outcry that resulted in its eventual repeal? Do you believe that the revenue that would have been generated by the fee will have to be drawn from another source?
Gilleland: I was against the garbage fee from the first time it was mentioned. I believe the alternate source of revenue is leaving the money in the hands of our citizens. They will use this money to pay bills, shop and eat out locally and create more sales tax income for the city.
The trash fee situation sparked a debate about compensation for city employees including Christmas bonuses and insurance benefits. Where do you stand on this issue?
Gilleland: We have excellent employees working for the city and I am proud to work along side them. The Christmas bonus and insurance were rarely discussed in the community until the garbage fee was implemented. The garbage fee was a bad idea! The issue is not what our employees get for a Christmas bonus or insurance benefits; the issue is how much money we take from our citizens to run the city operation. We need to continue to cut costs as I have mentioned above and increase revenues by making Lincolnton an appealing place to live and work.
A batch of contracts between the city and Lincoln County for the sale of water from the city to the county and the sale of 911 call, animal control and other services from the county to the city was recently approved by the Board of Commissioners, but was subsequently sent back to the negotiating table by the City Council. The Council sent a revised set of contracts back to the Commissioners, but the county has taken no action. How urgent is the city’s need to sell its water? What is the best way for the city to move forward with regard to the sale of its water?
Gilleland: Selling water is the most urgent need the City of Lincolnton has. We have debt that was created when money was borrowed to build the water plant. Water sales have declined since the money was borrowed and that is why water rates have continued to rise. The City’s marginal cost to produce water is $.32/1,000 gallons of water. That is why selling additional water to the county for $1.00/1,000 gallons is a good idea. The county can increase the cost of 911 services and animal control at any time. My fear is the county will raise 911 and animal service fees for the city and not buy water from the city.
What should the relationship between the city and county entail? Do you feel that the relationship between the city and county needs improving?
Gilleland: There is a window of opportunity to work with the county and the county would be the perfect water customer. The county is growing at a much faster pace than the city and by partnering with them to sell water the city can take advantage of this growth. There are other areas we could work with the county and the bottom line is; It will be good for all city and county citizens to work together.
What are the keys to promoting growth in the city?
Gilleland: Continuing to be business friendly and leaving money in the hands of our citizens.
How do you feel about the current tax rate in the city?
Gilleland: We have the highest tax rate of any city in the area. We need to continue to look for more ways to operate more efficiently.
What are some of the other issues that you feel are important?
Gilleland: There are many important issues but we need to stay focused on our beautiful city and how to promote it worldwide.