Monday, 18 May 2020 18:50

Moss: County should distribute any sales tax revenues greater than $675k back to municipalities

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ROCKINGHAM — One Richmond County Commissioner has come up with a potential compromise in a situation that has pitted the county government against all six municipalities in recent weeks.

On Monday evening, Commissioner Ben Moss outlined a plan on his N.C. House campaign page that would give more money back to the cities and towns following the board’s April decision to switch the method of sales tax distribution.

“When I and the other six members of the Richmond County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on April 6 to change from a per capita sales tax distribution to an ad valorem distribution, the forecast effect on county tax revenue was projected to be an increase of $675,000,” Moss said in a statement. “When coupled with the statement that the North Carolina Department of State Treasurer ‘recommended’ the switch to an ad valorem distribution, the change seemed one that would benefit the county while doing little to impact the budgets of the municipalities.”

County Manager Bryan Land cited trends of both financial burdens being shifted to counties and more than half of the state's 100 counties switching to ad valorem as reasons for the change.

Moss said it appeared that evidence to support that calculation was seen 10 days after the vote when the interim Hamlet City Manager said the change “would not have a ‘major effect’” on that city’s revenues.

“... in fact this change in distribution method would not cause any substantive changes to their budget moving forward,” Moss said.

However, Rockingham City Manager Monty Crump, who was not aware of the change until contacted by the media for a response, has been vocal in his opposition from the beginning.

The other municipalities soon also expressed their disappointment, with Rockingham Mayor Steve Morris and Hamlet Mayor Bill Bayless dropping off letters from every municipality but Norman on April 29 asking the commissioners to reconsider.

Norman produced a letter later that day.

“It has since been argued that the calculations we were provided are not as accurate as what we believed initially,” Moss said. “The numbers provided by the North Carolina Department of Revenue show a difference of over $1.1 million when compared to the figures we had at our meeting on April 6.”

Using figures from 2018-2019, NCDOR estimates that Norman would lose 100% of its sales tax revenue. Likewise, Hoffman would lose more than 85%, Dobbins Heights would be out nearly 79%, and Ellerbe’s share would be decreased by more than 55%. 

Both Rockingham and Hamlet would lose more than a half-million each.

“The disparity between the revenue projection presented to the Board of Commissioners by the county and the revenue projection presented on May 5 by the North Carolina Department of Revenue is simply too great to ignore,” Moss said.

“As someone elected to represent all of Richmond County, I cannot remain silent and watch the smaller municipalities suffer, and potentially become insolvent, due to this change in tax distribution,” he continued. “Norman, Dobbins Heights, Ellerbe, and Hoffman are every bit as important as Rockingham and Hamlet.”

Moss said he has spent the past month having conversations with leaders of the other municipalities to understand the impact the distribution change would have on their communities including unintended consequences.

“In doing so, I was able to gather enough information to formulate a plan that would, for at least the next year, mitigate the most drastic effects of the change and give municipalities time to budget and plan for its implementation in the future,” Moss said.

Under Moss’ plan, any revenue to the county beyond the $675,000 that was pitched to commissioners would be returned to the municipalities.

“If the numbers provided by the Department of Revenue are correct, and the City of Rockingham has assured us many times that they are, it would mean $1.1 million would be distributed back to the municipalities for their use,” Moss said.

He added that he is only speaking for himself and not the rest of the board in bringing his plan directly to the public —  a step Moss says he doesn’t take lightly.

“I am certain that some will disagree with my approach, both in delivery and implementation, but the citizens of Richmond County deserve leaders that are open and accountable,” he said. “This is my effort at being true to those ideals.”

He went on to stress two points:

“1. The smaller municipalities in the county must not become financially insolvent, and as such, we must work together to mitigate the immediate effects of this change; and, 

2.) This plan is neither perfect nor permanent, and over the next year we must all earnestly and effectively work together to reach an agreement that protects all residents of Richmond County while equitably distributing the tax burden across all jurisdictions.” 

“Moving forward,” he concluded, “it is my hope that the county and all municipalities will be able to work together towards the common goal of making Richmond County a better place for all residents.”  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last modified on Monday, 18 May 2020 20:54