Gene Houpe


Iredell Free News asked each of the Republican candidates in the upcoming primary election for three seats on the Iredell County Board of Commissioners a series of questions about important issues.

Incumbent Gene Houpe is one of seven candidates in the March 5 primary. Here are his answers:

IFN: The Board of Commissioners has been criticized for not making a larger cut to the property tax rate following the significant increase in property values. What is your view on this? If you believe the rate should have been cut further, would you have cut services, staff, school funding, capital expenses or elsewhere — or used money from the fund balance to offset cuts to tax rate? Please explain your answer.

HOUPE: The county commissioners lowered the tax rate almost 4 cents to give as much relief to property owners as we could without jeopardizing all of the responsibilities and obligations we are faced with. This was a historic reduction for us, as it was the largest reduction of the tax rate in over 30 years. We have 26 county departments, and help fund three educational entities, 19 volunteer fire departments and three rescue squads. I would have loved to have lowered the rate more; however, that would mean cutting vital services to our citizens, which is just plain irresponsible. We’ve all noticed the rise in our costs of living. Likewise, the county has seen a rise in the costs of operations as well and we had to account for those rising costs. One of my priorities is to provide additional investments in our emergency services and law enforcement. We must be able to attract and retain the best staff and provide them with the equipment, training, and pay to be competitive with other counties. I want our citizens to have the safest communities in the state. Lowering the tax rate more than we did would have prevented us from providing these necessary investments in our community services.

IFN: In your view, what are the county’s most pressing capital projects? What are your priorities? How would you pay for these?

HOUPE: The county saves for and has plans for many needed capital projects. We are proud of Jennings Park, which is currently in progress. We believe this will be a great investment to our county as it not only provides a high-quality recreational space for our citizens, but will draw people to come to Iredell from surrounding counties and to use our restaurants, hotels, etc. Our capital projects list includes many other items, in no particular order, such as updating the fairgrounds, building a new Sheriff’s Office/Training Center, a new health department, and a new courthouse. All of these projects are needed based on the age and/or space of the facility. However, all of these items are placed on hold until we fund our largest mandated capital project — building schools due to the explosion in residential growth. We are currently waiting on new estimates for Weathers Creek High School. The voters approved an $80 million bond back in 2020 for this school, but due to rising costs of construction materials, the estimate jumped to $200 million. We have asked I-SS to get a new estimate for the school, as we see costs coming down some. Due to the extreme residential growth in the county, we know there are other schools that are needed now or in the near future. That is why we put these other county-needed projects on hold for now. Many people do not realize that the county commissioners do not control residential zoning approvals that the towns and municipalities approve in their town limits or ETJs, yet we are responsible for building the schools caused by the residential growth. For political purposes, some people are misleading or outright lying to the public and blaming the county commissioners for these zoning approvals. In North Carolina, it is illegal for us to charge impact or developer fees that could help pay for these schools and infrastructure needs required for this growth. This is why it is so important that we concentrate on balanced growth. When the commercial growth outpaces residential growth, the revenue we make from the businesses help pay for these projects and offsets to burden to the taxpayers. Balanced growth keeps your property taxes lower.

IFN: Per pupil funding for I-SS ranks near the bottom of public school districts in N.C. Do you believe the Board of Commissioners adequately funds operations and the capital needs of Iredell-Statesville Schools, Mooresville Graded Schools and Mooresville Community College? If you would increase funding, how would you pay for it?

HOUPE: Total combined funding for I-SS does rank near the bottom when you include federal, state, and local funding. However, local funding by itself ranks about 60 to 70 out of 115 school districts. Most other counties have one school district to support, but Iredell has three entities: Iredell-Statesville, Mooresville Graded, and Mitchell Community College. About 45 to 50 percent of our annual budget is invested on education for per pupil funding and capital projects for these three entities. We have worked with the sheriff and the school systems to ensure our campuses are safe for students and staff. Also included in this investment is to provide safety measures, such as school resource officers, door locks, camera systems, etc. The remaining 50 percent of our budget funds all the other departments and responsibilities mentioned in No. 1. It has always been a top priority of mine to invest in our schools. In my opinion, our great school systems are a reason that we are one of the top two counties in the state for economic growth due to the trained workforce we provide. This, along with our excellent county services, has led to business and industrial growth, which as I explained in No. 2, is extremely important. We have a funding formula that we use to fund the current expense revenues and capital needs projects, per system, according to each system’s needs. We adequality fund these school systems within the current funds available to us.

IFN: Do you think commissioners adequately fund parks and recreation? Would you support an increase or cuts to this department?

HOUPE: We have made additional investments to parks and recreation facilities. I would like to see the county get back into recreational programming, working with schools and other entities to make sure all of our children have equal opportunities. In addition to sports, we need to provide opportunities to get our children involved in organized programs and activities. This helps our children to learn important social skills and keeps them active. Some families are able to afford travel sports for their children, but many families cannot afford the staggering costs and those children are left out. I would like to see more options that would afford more children the opportunities to be involved in sports and recreational programs.

IFN: Voters will decide in March whether to continue the practice of rewarding the top two vote-getters in the Board of Commissioners election with four-year terms and the third-place finisher with a two-year term OR having staggered elections with four-year terms for all seats. Do you support this? Why or why not?

HOUPE: The Board of Commissioners put this before the people on the March 5 primary election ballot. Once elected, it takes one or two years for a commissioner to learn all the facets of the job. By that time, the candidate could be running for election again instead of focusing on the work of the county. A four-year term means less turnover, creating a more experienced board working for you. Under the current system, the top three candidates get through the primary and instead of focusing on running against their opposing party as one unit, they are still having to run against each other in basically a second primary election. If this is approved by voters, this would take effect in 2026 so it will not impact this year’s election.

IFN: Why are you the best choice among the Republican candidates in the March 5 primary?

HOUPE: Voters have honored me by electing me to four terms in office. During my tenure, I have been a steady voice for you as I have worked with my fellow county commissioners to improve services while lowering taxes, cutting waste, supporting our schools, and funding projects while working hard to balance our growth and keep your tax rate as low as possible.

I have also served you in another capacity. I am the District 12 director, elected to represent Iredell County and seven other counties, on the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners. This position allows me to advocate for Iredell County and give us a voice on the state level and in the region. I am the first person to have been elected by my peers for three terms in this position. I am seeking a fifth term on the Board of Commissioners to continue working for you. I pride myself in my accessibility to the citizens of this county. I work tirelessly to respond to everyone and enjoy meeting with citizens to hear your issues and what matters most to you and your families. In this process, I have also worked with other local, state, and federal officials to make your lives better and your communities safer. I have a tremendous work ethic and dedication to the job I perform for you. As the senior member on the board, my experience is vital. I have always been transparent with my decisions and will always tell you the truth. I have been a good steward of your tax dollars, never asking for more revenue unless there are no other options. I have always sought voter approval on school bonds and never spend money without telling you how much money is being spent and for what.

I use my unique background as a small business owner and a former law enforcement officer to think outside the box and to support and improve our emergency services. I am steady, principled, and transparent in all decisions, after I consider all of our options. My primary job is to make your lives easier, to make your communities safer, and to ensure our county is the best in the state to live, work, and raise your families. I promise that I look out for your family just as hard as I do my own. It is an honor to have served you as a county commissioner for four terms and I hope that I have earned your trust and support for a fifth term.


Houpe announces campaign for fifth term on Iredell County Board of Commissioners

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