04/30/08 — Duplin commissioners hope for sales tax OK

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Duplin commissioners hope for sales tax OK

By Steve Herring
Published in News on April 30, 2008 1:57 PM

KENANSVILLE -- Duplin County Commissioner L.S. Guy and school board member William Gillespie spent some time Monday counting out what they hope will be a sign of the future -- approval of the county's proposed one-quarter cent sales tax increase.

The two men were in the commissioners' meeting room counting out yard signs with "Support Education. Vote for 1/4 cent sales tax" written on them. Guy said the signs and stakes were paid for by donations from county residents.

Guy said commissioners took a poll at a recent meeting and that the consensus of those in attendance was support for the increase.

"There are some who are not as zealous as others, but I am one of those who believe it is a real good alternative source of revenue to put into the public schools and James Sprunt Community College (JSCC)," Guy said.

All proceeds from the increase will be dedicated to the county's public schools and JSCC, he said.

"We decided that from the very beginning," he said.

Commissioners have yet to decide how the funds will be divided.

Guy said supporters think that a sales tax increase is "more agreeable" to voters than a property tax hike would be.

"We are going to have to provide support for public school facilities needs. North Carolina statutes require the counties do that," he said. "And the only source of revenue that we get is through property taxes. Every dollar from this sales tax will help mitigate the total property tax requirement that would be required eventually to pay for what we need. So we think that it is a good way to keep from having to increase our property tax way beyond what would be required to do the full job."

Guy said public school needs in the county are estimated to be in excess of $200 million, while needs at JSCC total around $50 million.

One penny of property tax represents about $278,000.

"We just want to establish a funding stream that will allow us to begin addressing school needs just as soon as we can," he said. "The sales tax is one way to generate a revenue stream to do that."

Guy said estimates indicate the proposed increase would initially bring in about $800,000. Since it is a point-of-sale tax, hopefully the amount will increase, he said.

He acknowledged that the proposal is another tax. However, he said the county has got to provide for the public schools.

"We believe the sales tax will help mitigate the other major source of revenue which is the property tax," he said. "If we are going to have to do it, and we are, find as many other different revenue streams other than property tax to do this. Right now the only other one we have is this opportunity before us, the sales tax."

Guy said he had heard numerous positive comments from the public concerning the sales tax.

'They want to see everybody who lives and shops here to help pay for this expense," he said. "Some say 'no' because it is another tax and they do not want another tax. I just hope we are very successful next Tuesday."