Duplin commissioners asking lawmakers for penny sales tax
By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on February 26, 2007 1:45 PM
KENANSVILLE -- The Duplin County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution last week to be sent to the county's state legislative delegation -- Democrats Rep. Russell Tucker and Sen. Charlie Albertson -- asking for Duplin County to be allowed the option to levy its own one-cent sales tax.
Half of the increase would go for school construction and other capital projects, while the other half would stay with the commissioners for county construction and other capital projects.
Commissioner L.S. Guy, who asked for the resolution, explained that with school construction being such a big need in the county, they should be willing to look at any and all sources of funding.
"I know some people consider the sales tax to be a regressive tax, but either everybody pays through the sales tax or only part of the people pay through the property tax," he said.
Commission Chairman David Fussell disagreed.
"It's another tax. I'm not sure that's in our best interests," he said.
He was the only commissioner to vote against adding the local sales tax option to the resolution.
The other parts of the resolution were approved unanimously -- asking the state to phase out the counties' Medicaid burden within five years while capping those contributions at the 2005-06 levels, supporting a statewide $2 billion school construction bond and continuing to distribute lottery money in higher amounts to those counties with property tax rates higher than the state average.
The other vote the commissioners took, directed county water department director Stanley Miller and county manager Mike Aldridge to come up with a plan to encourage more customers to sign up.
Currently, 17,000 customers have signed onto the county water system.
Included in that plan, the commissioners said, should be a marketing effort to educate people about the benefits of county water, as well as a possible incentive program to encourage people to sign on.
Tapping onto an existing line now costs $800. When lines are being laid, the tap-on fee is $325.
The commissioners would like see that tapping fee lowered for a brief period of time, or at the very least, a payment plan instituted.
Commissioner Zettie Williams compared it any other business holding a sale.
"We've got to have a reduction sometime," she said.
Finally, the board once again heard a presentation from county Health Department director Ila Davis about the need for fluoride to be added to the county water system.
"As health director it is my responsibility to advocate for the fluoridiation of county water," she said. "Dental decay is a public health issue that affects the quality of life on every level."
Still, as at previous meetings, several commissioners expressed reservations over both the cost and the potential risks involved.
"I talked to some commissioners in New Bern and some of those who've got it, are trying to get rid of it," commissioner Harold Raynor said.
Commissioner Cary Turner also voiced concerns over the safety of fluoridated water, citing a National Academy of Sciences' National Resarch Council study that he said showed that too much fluoride can actually do more harm than good.
"Most every substance can be 'poison' if taken in large enough quanities, even water. It is important that we educate the public on the benefits of flouride and assure them that the county will hire qualified staff to manage the fluoridation process," Davis said.
Providing fluoride in county water would require the hiring of at least one more employee and the purchase of new delivery and testing equipment at a cost of about $100,000 the first year.
Commissioners indicated they would consider the issue during their upcoming budget work sessions.
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