Larry's Priorities

Education – With 115 local school districts and 100 counties, North Carolina funding for public education is substantially centralized in state government, which pays teachers and funds much of schools’ day-to-day operations. In Durham the state provides over 48% of funding to our schools. Durham Public Schools (DPS) is the third largest employer in Durham County with over 5,000 full-time employees. Employee salaries and benefits make up over 77% of DPS total expenditures. Over the past decade, benefits paid to employees has increased from nearly 29% to approximately 50% of overall compensation paid.

It is clear that there needs to be a focus on increasing teacher pay. However, there should also be an effort within the North Carolina Legislature to address the rising costs of employee benefits through finding smarter means of providing those benefits. This benefit cost savings could be used to further increase teacher pay. There should also be an examination of North Carolina’s funding system, which is a resource-based allocation model. According to Education Commission of the States, North Carolina is one of only 10 states to use some form of resource-based allocation. By re-examining the way schools are funded from the state the General Assembly could give schools more flexibility in how they spend money at the local level.

Available & Appropriate Housing – Housing is affordable when it comprises no more than 30% of a family’s budget. Families that spend more than this on housing are considered cost-burdened. 32% of households in Durham are cost-burdened. 73% of people moving to Durham have incomes above $130,000 and the average price of a home sale in 2020 was just shy of $300,000, compared to $200,000 in 2010. Within the past year investors purchased 15% of homes in Durham, and corporate investment is concentrated in predominantly black neighborhoods. It is anticipated that the population of Durham will increase by 160,000 people by 2045. This will require that an additional 2,000 dwelling units in Durham every year.

Solution Options:

  • Create opportunities for citizens to gain life skills and job training to build wealth and ensure that individuals are being set up for success for jobs within their communities.

  • Leverage the wide variety of educational institutions within Durham that can connect individuals to specific job training programs, as well as assist with affordable housing projects.

  • Engage not-for-profit medical institutions to dedicate community-improvement funds to housing development.

  • Facilitate single-family conversions and accessory dwelling units to increase density while keeping community design in mind.

  • Focus on middle-housing solutions to avoid displacement in low-cost housing.

  • Provide home purchase assistance to increase residential stability among households with low incomes and first-time owners.

Current Legislation in committee that could be beneficial to housing in Durham include SB349/HB401 and HB 232. While it still is far from reaching completion SB349/HB401 would improve housing availability and affordability while providing more ways for existing owners to capture the value of their investments. HB 232 directs an affordable housing study that would could help inform future legislation.

 

Criminal Justice Reform – The work started with Senate Bill 300 should continue.  The bill established a group to study the state’s criminal laws and make legislative initiatives. Work on criminal law recodification to streamline the state criminal code and develop a database of crimes and offenses under different statutes, common law, regulations and ordinances. Recodification is a start to solve the problem of overcriminalization. However, work will need to be done to keep it from recurring in the future. Solutions could include formal oversight to review proposed crimes and periodically audit existing crimes. Rescind or restrict the power of agencies, boards, and local governments to create crimes, and specify to be enforceable, and regulation that carries a criminal penalty must be explicitly approved by the general assembly.

 

Success would be fewer individuals in the criminal justice system, law enforcement officers would be able to carry out their duties more effectively and there would be few opportunities for litigation.

Responsible Budgeting –  In 2013 the NC legislature implemented comprehensive tax reform. Since that time subsequent and smaller tax reforms continue to improve North Carolina's  tax environment. In recent years tax revenues exceeded expectations and this year the state will receive  $4.24 billion more revenue than projected in the budget year that ends June 30 – a 15% increase. North Carolina should continue to reduce its personal income tax rate and increase the standard deductions for the lowest tax brackets. This will allow citizens to keep more of their income in a time when it is clearly needed. 

Honoring Our Veterans – As an executive director for a non-profit that advocates for veterans and the current commander of the Durham VFW as well as the North Carolina Veteran’s Council Larry understands the need to advocate for our veteran population. The recent approval of military pension tax exemption is a recent small success for veterans. There are a number of veteran’s courts programs across North Carolina that exist in a varying degree. These are proven programs that should be expanded across the state. North Carolina needs to improve it property tax exemption for disabled veterans. Currently only a small portion of property taxes are exempted for those that are 100% disabled. North Carolina should increase this to 100% exemption as well as establish a pro-rated scale for those with a rating of less than 100%.  There are also a number of improvements that can be made to military spousal licensing portability.