By IRENE NOLAN
As requested by the Dare County Board of Commissioners, a bill has been introduced in the General Assembly to give the board the power to increase the sales tax in the county by 1/4-cent to pay for dredging Oregon and Hatteras inlets.
The bill, House Bill 388, was introduced yesterday by Rep. Paul Tine, who represents Dare County. Today, an amendment was filed.
The commissioners voted 5-1 at a special meeting on Friday morning to ask the General Assembly to authorize them to levy the tax to help the county deal with the economic and public safety issues of continued shoaling in the inlets. Commissioner Beverly Boswell cast the lone dissenting vote.
On Monday morning, Tine introduced the bill, a short one that gives the commissioners two choices for enacting the increased sales tax. They can pass a resolution enacting it 10 days after it is approved by voters or they can pass a resolution without a referendum after a public hearing about which citizens are notified 10 days in advance.
The commissioners said at the Friday meeting that because time is of the essence, they want to levy the 1/4-cent increase without a referendum.
On Saturday morning, the U.S. Coast Guard used its emergency power to prohibit boats drawing more than 2 feet from passing within 110 yards of the Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet, which, for all practical purposes, closed the inlet to traffic. Most charter boats draw 3 to 5 feet of water.
The bill also stipulates that the 1/4-cent be used only for dredging, and that it is effective when the law is passed.
The original bill said that the tax would expire the year after the completion of the Bonner Bridge replacement and the removal of the old bridge. It is expected that the design of the new bridge will reduce the problem of shoaling in the channel through the inlet.
The amendment filed today says that the Secretary of Transportation will notify the commissioners and the Secretary of Revenue when the bridge replacement, including the removal of the old bridge, is complete. The tax then would expire 90 days after the notification.
The bill is expected to provide about $3.3 million of the estimated $7- to $8-million cost of keeping the channel open to commercial vessels.
A 1/4-cent increase would cost consumers 25 cents for each $100 they spend. Sales tax is not charged on the purchase of food.
Currently, the sales tax in Dare County is 6.75 percent. If the increase is approved, the tax would become 7 percent.
The resolution passed by the commissioners asking the legislature to enact the tax increase refers to the dredging of Oregon and Hatteras inlets. However, during recent discussions of funding for dredging, there has been no discussion about the shoaling in Hatteras Inlet nor has there been a mention of costs or funds that might be used to dredge it.
The bill does not mention either inlet by name but specifies only that the 1/4 cent be used for dredging.
Click here to read House Bill 388. Click here to read the amendment.