05/20/08 — Duplin commissioners bicker over sales tax defeat

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Duplin commissioners bicker over sales tax defeat

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 20, 2008 1:49 PM

KENANSVILLE -- Duplin County Commissioner Reginald Wells said campaigning by fellow board member David Fussell and his constituents was a factor in causing the county to miss the "golden opportunity" a proposed one-quarter cent increase in the local sales tax had offered.

Wells' comments were sparked during the board's Monday morning session when Fussell said he would not support an increase in the county property tax rate.

Citing an article in the May issue of a magazine published by AARP, Fussell said, "There is no question we are in a recession. There is no question it will get worse.

"As the biggest business in Duplin County, we have got to be prepared for it. Our citizens are suffering. We are going to have to change our lifestyles. I hope this board of commissioners will not vote to increase the tax burden on our citizens during this recession."

Fussell said while he was driving to the meeting he noticed gas prices ranging from $3.47 to $3.87 per gallon. He said the costs of other items including eggs and milk are increasing as well.

Wells said the county had missed a "golden opportunity" when voters defeated the sales tax increase during the May primary.

"Now, we are facing a mountain because some of our leadership wrote letters against it," Wells said.

Wells said the sale tax was a "fairer" tax since everyone paid it, including people who purchased items while just visiting the county.

Commissioner Cary Turner reiterated his earlier comments laying some of the blame for the failure of the tax vote on the Duplin County Board of Education.

Turner said it was "very clear" in his district that persons were concerned about not knowing where the school board stood on a school plan.

He said some persons in his district liked the idea of the tax, but did not support it because of the school board.

The county had planned to use revenues from the increase for the public schools and James Sprunt Communi-ty College. The increase had been expected to bring in about $800,000 annually.

Duplin commissioners will hold three days of budget workshops this week -- Wednesday through Friday at 9 a.m. each day in the commissioners' boardroom.