03/29/08 — Tax dilemma: Households are squeezed, but the future cannot be ignored

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Tax dilemma: Households are squeezed, but the future cannot be ignored

There is a fine line when it comes to deciding when another new tax is just too much.

For some, there can be no legitimate reason to add to an already crowded roster of costs for Wayne County residents. There are economic worries, and it costs more to keep a household going these days — especially important considerations for those who are on fixed incomes.

So, there will be many who will discount the county commission’s call for a sales tax increase simply on principle.

But what the critical question is as Wayne County residents prepare to tell their commissioners what they think of the proposed sales tax increase is what will this tax do for the future of the county.

And in this case, it just might be the important first step in a more pressing question: How do we keep Wayne County growing?

As more and more communities across North Carolina start thinking about growth and their futures, there will be two categories — those that want to curb growth to let their infrastructure catch up and those that want to attract more attention to what they have to offer businesses and potential residents.

Lucky for us, Wayne County is one of those places with potential to attract more interest in business and residential investment.

With North Carolina continuing to earn recognition as a growth spot at a time when many states are dealing with more job losses than increases, there is potential to draw more attention to Wayne County as a nice alternative to the hustle and bustle of Raleigh and the high costs of living in some of its suburbs.

With future transportation possibilities and infrastructure improvements, Wayne County could be a place that families look to for the chance to own a nice house in a good neighborhood and still be able to save money to put a couple of children through college. And if the area can maintain its hometown appeal, it will also be attractive to those who are looking for a safe place to raise a child with real neighbors and a community feel or to retirees who want a nice standard of living at a reasonable cost.

Extra revenue from a sales tax will not miraculously turn Wayne County into the new Cary or Johnston County, but new funds used judiciously and with the future in mind could set the stage for a chance to take advantage of the triangle job boom.

That is, of course, if the powers that be keep focused on developing a top-flight education system and addressing some of the crime issues that still concern local residents.

So, bottom line, vote for another sales tax? OK, county leaders gave the breakdown and they seem to have a plan, so this might be one to approve and then to watch. If the commissioners get the green light, the next step is to make sure the money is used as promised — and to hold their feet to the fire when it comes to alloting tax money to address county priorities.

In other words, we can increase this allowance, but we need to keep a close eye on where the money goes.

That way, when it comes time to talk about bigger ticket items, we will have a track record to consider.

A community cannot grow without investment. It is what keeps businesses and potential residents interested and property values growing.

But writing a blank check won’t get us anywhere. A sales tax hike is a small step that spreads the burden for improvements around — and doesn’t just dump the bill on property owners.

This time it really is taxpayer be positive, but wary, very wary.

Published in Editorials on March 29, 2008 11:41 PM