June 18, 2015
BOC approves budget, lashes out at Senate's sales tax plan
By IRENE NOLAN
Dare County Board of Commissioners passed a $102 million budget for the
next fiscal year that requires no increase in property taxes at its
meeting on Wednesday, June 17.
And then the board members turned around and denounced the N.C.
Senate's budget plan, which would take $10 to $12 million in sales tax
revenue from future county budgets and cause the county to raise taxes
by as much as 8 cents or to drastically slash employees and programs.
The board instructed county manager Bobby Outten to craft a budget for
the fiscal year that begins July 1 that maintains but doesn't expand
the current service level and works within existing revenue sources.
Under the proposal, Dare County's property tax rate of 43 cents per $100 dollars of valuation remains the same.
The 2016 budget includes $3 million for the creation of a new
special revenue fund that would provide the local match for state and
federal funds for inlet maintenance. Under the budget plan, $1.25
million of that will come from anticipated surplus from the current
budget year, $1 million will be transferred from the beach nourishment
fund, and $750,000 will come from the anticipated sale of the old EMS
Under pressure from the county Board of Education and citizens who
spoke at a June 1 public hearing, the commissioners found another
$400,000 in the budget -- without increasing it -- to partially fund an
anticipated $514,000 increase in salaries for starting teachers
mandated by the General Assembly.
With the budget out of the way, board Chairman Bob Woodard turned the
conversation to the effort in Raleigh, led by Sen. Harry Brown, a
Republican from Onslow County, to change the way the state distributes
sales taxes to the counties.
The current formula distributes sales tax based 75 percent on point of
sale and 25 percent on population. Under the changes, a new
formula would be phased in over four years based 80 percent on
population and 20 percent on point of sale.
Brown has said that the plan will benefit poor, rural counties whose residents travel to larger urban centers to shop.
However, it would hurt Dare County, which has a relatively small
year-round population of 35,000 but whose population swells during the
tourist season. Visitors spend money in the county, and a portion of
the money is returned to the county -- as the point of sale -- in order
to fund the additional services and infrastructure needed to
Woodard read a letter that he had drafted on behalf of the board to
Sen. Phil Berger, Senate President Pro Tempore, in which he condemned
the attempt to redistribute the sales tax revenue.
"Our Board is vehemently opposed to the proposals that are being
discussed by the Legislature," the letter says. "These misguided
efforts have been incorrectly titled as 'Tax Fairness Acts' and 'Simple
and Fair' plans, when in fact they are neither simple nor fair."
The plan, he wrote, would have a "disastrous" and "debilitating" effect
on Dare County by taking away $10 to $12 million from the general fund
-- more than 10 percent. This, Woodward writes, would cause a major
reduction of essential services or a "walloping" ad valorem tax
"Let there be no doubt, either of these would create a budgetary
tsunami that would ripple throughout North Carolina’s Outer Banks
ruining our families, small businesses, and
communities," the letter reads.
Woodard notes that over the last 10 years, county officials calculate
that Dare has contributed more than $80 million in sales tax revenue
and has been able to do so because of tourism, which brings about
300,000 visitors in the summer months.
"It is these out-of-state visitors that generate the sales taxes
collected by Dare County, which have been generously shared with other
counties and municipalities," the letter says.
"As one of America’s premier tourism destinations, Dare County has been
able to attract millions of people to North Carolina each year," the
letter continues. "While North Carolina benefits from the dollars these
visitors bring, it is Dare County that is left with the responsibility
to fund water plants and provide law enforcement, fire protection,
emergency medical services, and other visitor driven needs."
The proposal would "unfairly punish counties" such as Dare that depend
on tourism and threaten "core conservative values that are needed to
promote and sustain a business-friendly, free market economy throughout
The board unanimously passed a motion to send the letter to Berger.
However, this morning, the Senate passed its budget, which includes the sales tax redistribution plan.
"It's not too late to stop this destructive plan for Dare County," Woodard said this morning in a statement.
The Senate budget now moves to a conference committee and then must be
approved by the House of Representatives. Woodard urged all who are
concerned to contact state leaders to object to the sales tax
redistribution plan. Dare County is represented by Sen. Bill Cook and
Rep. Paul Tine. Contact information for every legislator can be found
In other action, the commissioners:
During his chairman's comments at the beginning of the meeting,
Woodward updated the commissioners on letters he has written to
state Attorney General Roy Cooper on Jan. 20, asking for an
investigation into gas prices in the county. The chairman first wrote a
letter on Jan. 20 and followed up with a second letter in March.
a Tourism Board grant from the restricted fund to the Chicamacomico
Historical Association for $65,412 for repairs to the doors, windows,
and exterior trim of the historic Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station in
Rodanthe. The non-profit board maintains the station as a historic site
that, with its tours and programs, is a significant tourist attraction
for the island and the county.
the submission of a project request for sidewalks in Hatteras village
to the Albemarle Planning Organization. The request is for
funding consideration in the state Transportation Improvement Plan and
would not require any county funds. The sidewalks would connect the two
bridges over Slash Creek in the village and would also address
an abandoned vessel ordinance as the first step in addressing the issue
of abandoned boats in the county's waterways. The ordinance
defines an abandoned vessel as one "that is moored, anchored, or
otherwise located for more than 30 consecutive days in any 180
consecutive-day period without permission of the dock owner, marina
owner, boat slip owner, or property owner whereby the vessel is
located." The ordinance prohibits the abandonment of a vessel and
allows the county to remove and dispose of them.
a resolution brought to them by Sandy Semans Ross of Stumpy Point
that requests the North Carolina Marine Fisheries
Commission adhere to the process of calling together scientists and
stakeholders to study a Southern flounder management plan to ensure it
is defensible plan and sets a realistic goal, as laid out in the North
Carolina Fisheries Reform Act of 1997. The resolution also call for the
federal government to remove restrictions on commercial fishermen that
have shut down the fishery until at least Sept. 1 because of
interactions with sea turtles until such time that recreational
interaction is also addressed. And it asks that proper stock
assessments for Southern Founder and sea turtles be formulated and
peer-reviewed before any additional efforts at restricting the
fisheries are implemented.
"The prices that are being forced on our residents and visitors far
exceed the prices elsewhere in our region and the average rate in North
Carolina," Woodard wrote in the letter.
"I am sure you agree that our unfair gasoline prices are not the type
of welcome message we want to extend to those who are bringing their
tourism dollars to North Carolina," Woodard wrote.
On June 12, Phillip Woods, special deputy attorney general, e-mailed
the commissioners that, while he was limited in what he could disclose,
the attorney general office has sent letters to "three major retailers
in Dare County seeking information regarding costs and retail selling
prices of gasoline."
The letters, he said, were sent on May 19, and there had been no response by June 12. The retailers have 30 days to respond.
What's on the agenda for the commissioners' June 1 meeting and what's not
County board, school board reach an agreement on schools' budget
Legislative Update: Sales tax redistribution is back and will still hurt Dare
Dare County is the big loser in bill that would shift sales tax revenue
BOC chairman sends another letter on Dare County gas prices
Fuming over Outer Banks Gas Prices