Melissa Neader


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 Melissa Neader is one of seven candidates in the March 5 primary. Here are her 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.

NEADER: The county is always planning for multiple years in advance. I stand with the current commissioners’ decision. Iredell County sets aside dollars over years to save for capital projects. The county does not borrow money for capital projects, except for schools. However, in the current budget, we made an unprecedented decision and began to set aside money, $10 million a year, for an Iredell-Statesville elementary school. The goal is to save money and not borrow for the upcoming elementary
school. In addition to school projects and capital projects, the increase and demand for services from the 26 county departments is growing with influx of new homes and residents.

Services such as EMS paramedics, telecommunicators, Sheriff’s Office deputies, and social workers, just to name a few. Iredell County operating expenses, not including capital (CIP) costs $18 million per month. The county must be prepared to face unexpected, unfunded state mandates, such as Public Defenders office space, and is not immune to increased costs due to inflation. New rooftop growth property tax does not cover the cost of services provided; there must be proper balanced, strategic, compatible growth with business and industry. To be very clear, the county does not control the growth of the city and towns located with in the county, yet the county must provide services and build the schools, which are very costly.

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

NEADER: Building school facilities is a mandate. It is important to build those facilities at an affordable rate; therefore, I have huge concerns about navigating the current high school project and its cost. In addition, Iredell County is out of courtroom space in the current building. The county will be doing a
space and needs analysis to identify and utilize existing space.

There have been updates done to Government Center South in Mooresville to allow for the ability to provide services such as social services, sheriffs office, health department, and Register of Deeds in that building. Spring of 2025 Jennings Park will open. This park will provide the outstanding facilities for sports and outdoor activities with the potential for revenue generation. The county has an eight-year capital improvement plan; however, it is important to keep a strong fund balance to be able to handle unexpected, immediate mandates and save over years to pay for projects (except for schools) without a loan.

IFN: Per pupil funding for I-SS ranks near the bottom of public school districts. 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?

NEADER: Iredell County funds Iredell-Statesville Schools, Mooresville Graded School district and Mitchell Community College in three ways: current expense, capital funding and debt service for new build loans. County funding is the local funding source. Iredell County ranks seventh out of a sampling of 15 surrounding counties with $2,223 per pupil funding and Total Education Capital Funding of $14,991,354 annual fiscal current year. (This number will increase with debt service of the new High
school). For comparison, Alexander County with a tax rate of 67 cents per $100 valuation has a per pupil funding of $1,728 and total educational capital funding of $3,474,000. Rowan County with a tax rate of 58 cents per $100 valuation has a per pupil funding of $2,129 and a total education capital funding of $1,425,028. North Carolina Department of Public Instruction current 2023-24 per pupil funding is fifth lowest in the state for I-SS and eighth lowest for MGSD out of 115 schools systems in the state. Therefore, state funding for our local schools is very low. The state tier system that is in place considers Iredell a wealthy county; therefore, we receive very little funding from the state and our local taxpayers have that burden. The tier system should have adjustments. It feels like a punishment to be a successful county with the current state funding model. Iredell County locally funds schools above what is required.

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

NEADER: County parks provide a good quality of life benefit. During Covid, many people realized the importance of outdoor spaces and the availability of parks to get outside. I often hear the concerns stated that children do not get enough exercise and outdoor time. Sports are a vitally important way to teach children good sportsmanship and opportunity to interact with other children.

Businesses often ask about parks and recreation when they consider locating to an area. Iredell County provides multiple good quality park facilities throughout the county to take in the beauty of nature, exercise and play sports. I believe Iredell County adequately funds parks by leveraging county dollars and grant dollars through donated land, multiple grants, including a significant grant for an inclusive accessible children’s playground that will allow all children to play at the new Jennings Park facility that will open Spring of 2025.

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?

NEADER: It can take one to two years to understand the structure of the board and the laws to be followed. A newly elected commissioner must first learn the can and can’t do situations. If an elected commissioner receives the two-year term, they are just starting to learn the process when it is time to campaign again and possibly lose the seat. In addition, every voting year the majority is up for re-election. The entire direction of the board can shift each election cycle. Consistency is important with long-range planning and conservative spending. I support the four-year term for all. In 1974 a referendum was on the ballot to have two-year term added to allow for staggered terms to prevent the possibility of the entire board changing. If this current referendum is passed by voters of Iredell County, it will be effective with the general election occurring in November of 2026 and the three candidates with the highest votes will each have a four-year term, in the November 2028 election the two candidates with the highest votes will receive a four-year term, November 2030 election the three candidates with highest votes will receive four year terms.

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

NEADER: I show up and participate and get work done. I listen to and talk with citizens, spend time at county departments, visit fire departments, do EMS ride-alongs, speak with our Sheriff’s office team, volunteer in schools, am active on boards, collaborate with others, gather information to work with county staff, and provide input and feedback. I am strongly driven to serve my community. I have proven that with years of involvement in church, schools and nonprofits, plus the past three years as an elected County Commissioner and I will continue to do so. I am retired after over 30 years working with my husband Mike as McDonald’s franchisees. My years working with the public allowed me the opportunity to hear day-to-day challenges and struggles of citizens, build priceless relationships and connections that have proven invaluable as I continue to navigate situations within the county and beyond. I spend my days actively engaged in a variety of ways that empower me to continue to move forward as commissioner. I am thankful to have the opportunity to serve my county in this elected capacity. This commitment is an honor and rewarding, yet one of the most difficult roles in which I have served, faced with decisions surrounded by facts, opinions, past history, future goals and lasting impacts on citizens. It is critically important to gather facts fully, vet each decision, weigh all options that are available within the legal allowable parameters and discuss with key stakeholders. Commissioners are faced with tough immediate decisions, yet ones that are necessary for long-term planning that continue to move our county forward. I take this role very seriously and am dedicated and ready to continue to serve the citizens of Iredell County.


Neader files for re-election for seat on Iredell County Board of Commissioners

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