Addressing deferred maintenance
It is something that every homeowner has had to face.
There is more month than money and something, inevitably, comes up. Whether it is a leaking bathroom faucet, problems with the roof or any number of household issues.
A lot of times, when the money is tight, the first inclination is to hold off on doing any kind of repair until the checkbook is in a better position. But, like with everyone’s luck, that leak or other problem seems to get worse over time.
It seems that our state is in a similar position — and has been for some time now.
Recently, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory brought forth the issue, spurred by an electrical fire at a state-owned office building in downtown Raleigh.
He told the Associated Press, “We’ve got to put out some short-term fires ... I didn’t mean it literally.”
The fact of the matter is that the Department of Administration’s backlogged bill for building maintenance is over $5 billion — which is about one-fourth of the state’s annual operating budget. To top it off, there has been only $70 million allocated for that maintenance since the recession hit in 2009.
The problem is mathematical. As the bill for maintenance continues to sit and the allocation for repair stays at a small percentage of the overall bill, the problem just gets worse each year.
McCrory has said that addressing maintenance to state buildings should be a priority, and we agree. The longer maintenance is deferred, the more expensive it becomes. In the end, health and safety of state workers along with taxpayers who will inevitably be footing the bill will suffer.
“Before we build any new buildings, we’ve got to take care of the existing buildings and make sure, first, they’re safe for employees and make sure we have sufficient security in place for information systems,” McCrory said.
While the solution seems simple enough, those that hold the majority in the General Assembly would rather remove a limb than increase taxes. That makes the solution very complex.
One potential answer was raised by The Herald-Sun and it is one that might seem the best approach: institute a bond issue to help curb the maintenance and get the state back on track with its buildings.
Several towns, cities and school districts across the country have followed the same approach with the pledge that, once it was finished skimping on maintenance was not going to be the status quo.
Let’s hold it to the same degree as roads. We all want nice, paved, and safe streets to drive on. Well, to do that takes money and that money can only come from one place ... we the taxpayers.
Let’s get our state buildings up to a standard that we can all take pride in and vow to never backburner their maintenance again.
By Matthew Clark, for the Editorial Board
The Daily Courier Editorial Board consists of community members Jerry Brewer, Kyle Bingham, Tom Padgett, Dr. Shermaine Surratt and Cliff Strassenburg as well as Editor Matthew Clark.