Keeping track of your tax dollars - Shooting The Breeze

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« The pressure is on th… | Home | The State of Hatteras… »

Keeping track of your tax dollars

Friday 03 April 2015 at 4:52 pm.

It's not been easy in the past month or so keeping up with what's happening in Raleigh and Manteo and how various proposed bills, motions, and resolutions might affect what you pay in taxes.

For instance, consider the issue of sales tax. We've had a lot of headlines in The Island Free Press lately with the words "sales tax" in them. And they refer to two separate and unrelated issues.

First, there is the issue of Dare County's sales tax, which will probably increase by 1/4 cent before the end of the year.

Then, there is the issue of a bill introduced in the General Assembly by Onslow County Republican Harry Brown that would totally change the way that sales tax monies are distributed to the counties. If that happens, Dare County would have to increase property taxes by 9 cents or more just to stay even.

So if you've been confused when you've seen stories about the sales tax, that's understandable.

If you live on Hatteras Island, you can worry even more about paying increased property taxes, since at least three of the seven county commissioners have said publicly that, as a matter of fairness, they think Hatteras islanders should contribute to a planned beach nourishment project in Buxton to protect Highway 12 from the ocean.

Add that to the fact that last month Dare County Board of Commissioners committed to finding about $3.8 million in its general fund budget of about $100 million to dredge Oregon and Hatteras inlets and you will hang onto your purse strings even more tightly. The choices are to cut services, which the board is finding out isn't as easy as it might seem, or increase taxes, which it does not want to do -- and probably won't.

Finally, until this week, those who opposed using Dare County's 6-cent occupancy tax to pay for dredging Oregon Inlet were waiting to see what would happen with a bill introduced by Sen. Bill Cook, who represents Dare. That bill would allow commissioners to use any part of the occupancy tax funds for inlet dredging. That's money that is now shared with the towns to increase their budgets to provide services and infrastructure for tourism, for promotion of tourism, and for beach nourishment.

To help you keep track, here are short updates on each of these issues.

Sales Tax Increase

This will probably happen. Last Friday, the commissioners asked the General Assembly to approve a 1/4-cent increase -- 25 cents on each $100 spent -- and to earmark the money to pay for inlet dredging.

Rep. Paul Tine, who represents Dare County, introduced a bill in the House to do that on Monday. It was amended on Tuesday, and rewritten and passed in the House on Wednesday.

It is now in the Senate, where it is expected to pass easily and probably quickly when the legislators return from a week-long Easter break.

After that, the Board of Commissioners must give 10 days notice of a public meeting and then pass a resolution implementing the tax increase and raising Dare's sales tax from 6.75 percent to 7 percent.

The money is expecting to raise about $3.3 million a year for inlet maintenance projects.

Sales Tax Distribution

This bill would change the way sales tax money is portioned out to the counties.

Right now, the money is distributed based 75 percent on point of sale and 25 percent on county population, adjusted by a formula to assist counties with small year-round populations and a large tourist influx in the summer that requires more county services.

The bill, Senate Bill 369, would change that to a system of distribution based solely on population -- with no adjustment or allowance for counties with a tourism-based economy. Brown says that he is proposing this to help poor, rural counties that are being shortchanged by a system that gives more sales taxes to urban centers with shopping malls and big-box stores.

Because of its smaller year-round population, Dare County is the biggest loser in the state in this deal. The county would lose almost 60 percent of its sales tax revenues. The current estimate is that the county budget would take a $12 million dollar hit and incorporated towns would also lose revenues on top of that.

If this bill becomes law as it is written, the commissioners would have to raise property taxes about 9 or 10 cents just to bring in the same revenue as it did before -- or just cut and slash the budget to a degree that we would be living in a county we didn't even recognize.

Towns that will also lose sales tax revenue will have to increase their property taxes. So residents in towns would be paying higher county and town taxes. Manteo and Kill Devil Hills taxpayers, for instance, would see their property taxes increase by about 14 cents per $100 of property valuation.

This bill is a disaster on any number of levels and is getting resistance from big counties that are also big losers, such as Wake and Mecklenburg. Gov. Pat McCrory has said he does not support it and Sen. Bill Cook has said he does not support it in its current form.

There is talk about making changes to the bill, but any bill that takes sales tax revenue from Dare will be problematic for balancing the budget.

Beach Nourishment

The towns north of Oregon Inlet that have either gotten their beaches nourished with more sand or plan to do it soon are taxing property owners to raise some of the funding.

Dare County is planning a beach restoration project in north Buxton that includes a handful of private properties but would mostly put sand onto Park Service beaches and is designed to protect Highway 12.

However, the Board of Commissioners will be deciding during its budget planning for the next fiscal year whether some or all of Hatteras islanders should have to contribute to the Buxton project.

At a February retreat, three commissioners said they were in favor of property owners footing part of the bill.

This issue will have to be decided this spring for the next budget year, which begins July 1.

At its first budget planning workshop, the board did not address the issue -- but it will have to in the coming weeks.

A 1 cent increase per $100 of valuation for Hatteras Island property translates to about $219,000. The project is expected to cost about $25 million.

Stay tuned, and now is the time to make your wishes known to the board members.

Funding for Inlet Dredging

The commissioners committed at their March 2 meeting to find about $3.8 million in the county budget to fund inlet dredging -- rather than use the occupancy tax.

Though they have met in one budget workshop, they are starting to find out that it's not easy to cut the budget. Many of the possibilities that the county manager put on the table weren't popular with various board members. These included cutting funds for mosquito control, closing the rubble site in Buxton, raising fees for Parks and Recreation programs, cutting funding for mental health care.

Each program and expenditure has its constituency.

There will be several more workshops and there are other ways on the table to fund the inlet dredging, so stay tuned for this one also.

And I might mention that it would be appropriate for constituents to let their elected commissioners know what they think could go in the budget and what should not.

Occupancy Tax Funds

Senate Bill 160, introduced by Sen. Bill Cook, is mostly about providing for the dredging and maintenance of the state's waterways -- shallow draft inlets and deeper channels and ports.

However, Sen. Cook added a section to the bill that would allow the Board of Commissions to raid the county's 6 percent occupancy tax to pay for dredging Oregon Inlet. That money is now earmarked for the county and towns to pay for increased services needed for an increased summer population, tourism promotion, and beach nourishment.

Town and tourism officials, representatives of the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce and other business groups, supporters of beach restoration, and many ordinary citizens oppose the use of already-committed occupancy funds for dredging.

At a March 2 meeting, the board voted to ask Cook to remove the Dare County section of the bill, which didn't happen before it was introduced and sent to committee and it didn't happen in the following weeks.

But it has happened now.

A new version of HB 160 was unveiled in committee this week. The Dare County section has been removed.

And $4 million has been included for dredging Oregon Inlet.

Related blogs for more information

Click here to read the March 13, 2015 blog -- The first 90 days of new leadership
Click here to read the March 27, 2015 blog -- The pressure is on the Dare County commissioners

HATTERAS VILLAGE PASSES ON OCEANFRONT PROPERTY -- FOR NOW

The Hatteras Village Tax District Board of Trustees voted last week to not pursue the purchase of several parcels of property, including some on the oceanfront.

The vote was 3-2 with trustees Ernie Foster, Rom Whitaker, and Ricki Shepherd voting against and Richie Midgett and Geraldine Farrow voting in favor.

The property is being offered to the tax district for $1.2 million by Eric Kaplan, owner of the non-profit Hatteras Island Ocean Center.

Supporters of the purchase think the property could be developed into an economic engine for the village -- a beach access with a bathhouse, picnic tables, a public beach and perhaps later an oceanfront event venue. It's an opportunity, they think, that the village can't pass up.

Others think the property is unaffordable and that the whole project has had little or no planning.

Advocates say that with the possibility of about $600,000 in grants, the property is affordable and that it should be seriously considered.

The tax trustees have been considering the purchase since late last summer and have pitched the idea to the Hatteras Village Civic Association. Though only the trustees can approve expenditures from the special district tax of 8.21 cents per $100 valuation, the trustees rely on the Civic Association to manage the property it purchases, such as the village's Civic Center.

HVCA's board has not been receptive and has voted several times against the purchase. However, the tax trustees had not voted until last week.

Midgett, president of the tax trustees, said this week that he is disappointed but will continue to pursue the idea of purchasing some kind of oceanfront property for the village. He said he is still pursuing grants and plans a meeting soon with Dare County manager Bobby Outten to discuss options for the community.

Related blogs on the Hatteras village oceanfront property

Click here to read the Nov. 14, 2014 blog -- An opportunity for Hatteras village.
Click here to read the Nov. 28, 2014 blog: --Tying up loose ends: Updates from Hatteras Island villages

RADIO HATTERAS NEEDS OUR SUPPORT

Radio Hatteras, the island's non-profit, community station, celebrated its first anniversary on March 14 and launched a membership drive.

The station, which has been mostly supported by Dare County and grants, needs member support to go forward -- to pay the bills for such things as the telephone, music rights, and insurance.

Becoming a member is very reasonable -- $25 for an individual and $50 for a family. You can go to the station's website, www.radiohatteras.org and use PayPal or mail checks to Radio Hatteras, P.O. Box 339, Frisco, NC 27936.

My guests on last Sunday's edition of "To the Point," were the volunteers who have been bringing you this community radio station 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for the past year.

I've been working with them since I started this interview show last Labor Day weekend, and I don't mind telling you how impressed I am with how hard they work, how dedicated they are, and how creative they have been in programming this new station.

They work behind the scenes, and they apparently like it that way. It took some persuading to get them to sit down out front, so to speak, to talk about how the idea of a community radio station moved from a dream of a few Frisco firefighters to a reality with a real brick-and-mortar studio in a county-owned building.

Last Sunday, they will share their stories of how the dream became a reality and what they do to keep the music, news, announcements, and creative programming coming your way.

Click here to listen to the audio of the March 29 edition of "To the Point."

thirteen comments

salvo jimmy

Posted again re fairness of property taxing for beach nourishment.

Assuming that the Buxton beach nourishment (unlike the S-Curve/Mirlo Nourishment) is done to not only protect the road but also to enhance the beach for beach goers and to protect property.

Then if the Nags Head beach nourishment would be the model for paying (taxing) for Buxton beach nourishment, why would all of Hatteras Island chip in??

In the Nags Head model (to my recollection) folks next door in Kill Devil Hills (KDH) did not chip in for Nags Head. KDH will chip in for their own beach, but did not for Nags Head.

Taxing all of Hatteras Island villages to nourish Buxton beaches does not seem to fit the Nags Head model being cited.

And further taxing local residents to protect the road does not fit the state wide model. Local residents are not subjected to added property tax solely to protect or repair damaged state roads in their local area.

salvo jimmy - 03-04-’15 18:05
Lynne

Thank you, Irene. It seems to take a veteran journalist to read through, comprehend and explain these situations. I really appreciate your post.

Lynne - 03-04-’15 18:56
Beth Saylo

Eric Kaplin’s offer to sell beachfront property To Hatteras – is this taking the place of his plans for the Hatteras Island Ocean Center, pier, etc.?

Beth Saylo - 04-04-’15 07:02
Buxton Resident

I don’t want to pay any new taxes like most people on the OBX. The commissioners are socializing special interest group’s expensive projects and we need to tell them it’s not ok. And really who want to stand up at a meeting in front of all the fishermen, some of them are friends, and tell them we don’t want to pay higher taxes so they can go fishing. Nothing positive will come from the interaction. It needs to be done by a vote. Funds for dredging should be raised via gas tax at the marina’s pump. It’s that simple. The user pays. Why are we taxing all of the OBX when 99.9 percent of us can only go over the bridge, not under it? Some of the federal and state taxes we all pay at the road gas pumps should now be directed to protect Hwy 12 in north Buxton. Again, it is really pretty simple and logical. That’s why we have taxes at the pump. For safe road passage. I don’t want to pay to widen the beach in front of the hotels and ocean front homes either. There is no public parking there so only the guests at the hotels and ocean front homes use the beach there. Salvo Jimmy you really can’t compare the Nags Head model with Buxton because we don’t have public parking for beach use at the nourishment area. It’s plain and simple and the commissioners are really putting the screws to Hatteras on this one because of a few loud obnoxious groups complaining they bought ocean front property and the obvious risk is now at their door step. Hatteras Island has plenty of beaches for our tourists to use. Nags Head was running out of beach, we are not. Our beach nourishment is on the table because of Hwy 12 not because we are running low on beach for our tourists. Don’t you think its time to take responsibility for your self and stop trying to socialize your problems? I have always heard Hatteras is a cash positive island via the many different taxes levied on the residences, businesses and tourists and I believe it to be true. Hatteras will be facing some tough issues and if we don’t stand up to the commissioners now and let them know 99 percent of the residents of Hatteras and the rest of the OBX for that matter don’t want to pay more taxes for a few special interest groups expensive projects. Hatteras Island more than ever needs to start thinking of a different governing body. I don’t know what form it should take but we need to start talking about it and brain storming because it oblivious these commissioners don’t have our best interest in their minds. Our only representative seems to only be concerned with Hatteras village where his business is. I am especially concerned with the dredging tax because it seems like it will be forced on us in the near future. Please email all the commissioners and tell them you don’t want to pay the additional sales tax and the only fair way to decide is to vote on it. Here are their emails. Just put @darenc.com after each name; I could not post 7 hyperlinks on this comment board.
woodard wallyo warren jshea allenb beverly.boswell margarette.umphlett
You can copy and paste this statement and email it. I do not want to pay higher sales tax to pay for dredging. Put a sales tax on the gas at the marina’s pump to pay for the dredging. It needs to be a user tax. At least let the people decide and put it up for a vote. Stop socializing special interest groups expensive projects!

Buxton Resident - 04-04-’15 07:18
Sheriff Matt Dillon

@Salvo Jimmy, you cannot equate incorporated towns to unincorporated villages on Hatteras Island. Of course, all residents of Hatteras Island should chip in and pay a fair share of beach nourishment for the Buxton project. It’s a no-brainer. What’s fair for one is fair for all. You take pride in professing that Hatteras Island is so important to Dare County’s ecomony…so take pride in paying your fair share of taxes to help protect it. Everyone heard the same ole arguments on the northern beaches about whether nourishment was to protect beaches, cottages, the highway, etc…and the story always changed depending on which commissioner or business person was doing the talking… Hatteras Island should stop whining, stop being such a ward of the county and pony up some skin if you want nourishment. End of story.

Sheriff Matt Dillon - 04-04-’15 20:29
salvo jimmy

I’ll try to be more direct to the point.

Hatteras Island property owners, nor anyone else in the state, visitor or otherwise, for that matter, was additionally taxed for the following projects to protect the road on Hatteras Island.

1. Raise the road in the Canal Zone a few years ago.
2. Move the road West in the 1980s in the area where the temp bridge is now.
3. Raise the road last year in the temp bridge area.
4. Move the road West in the S-Curve area in the 1980s.
5. Move the road West at the S-Curve area again a few years ago.
6. Continually push the sand back up on the dunes all along the road.
7. Pump sand on the beach last year at the S-Curve.

I could keep going but hopefully the picture is clearer on how road protection is paid for, and not by a local added tax.

So tell me again why anyone should be targeted for added tax to pump sand on the beach to protect the road at Buxton. Would they be taxed if sand was pushed back up on the dune or the road was moved West or raised or bridged in the area? I think not.

Bottom line. How keeping the road open is done has no bearing on adding a local tax to pay for it.

salvo jimmy - 05-04-’15 05:50
salvo jimmy

And Sheriff,

I don’t want any beach nourishment other than that which might be the best way to protect the road in the short term.

FYI the pumping of sand at the S-Curve was only a temp measure until a permanent solution can be done (eg. bridge). Any pumping of sand at Buxton would be temp at best to protect the road. Likely the long term solution is to move the road West or since there was an inlet there years ago (just like at S-Curve) maybe bridge it.

Bottom line. I’m not willing to pay an added tax to protect the road in Buxton (particularly on a temp basis) just like I did not pony up for any other road protection. And I sure as heck am not willing to pay an added tax to enhance the beach at Buxton for beach goers and/or to protect private property.

salvo jimmy - 05-04-’15 06:20
Buxton Resident

100% agreement with Salvo Jimmy’s last comments. Hatteras has plenty of beach, we don’t need sand for beach, just to protect the road. If anything the hotels are preventing NCDOT from building a dune there to protect the hwy. I would have to think at some point the state would take over the land the hotels are on via eminent (spelling?) domain and build a dune there to protect the road. Since I think 2 or 3 commissioners are already thinking of taxing Hatteras Island to protect Hwy 12 I think we need to let them know its not ok. Here are their emails. Just put @darenc.com after each name; I could not post 7 hyperlinks on this comment board.
woodard wallyo warren jshea allenb beverly.boswell margarette.umphlett

Buxton Resident - 05-04-’15 20:23
salvo jimmy

I see the motels at the North end of Buxton much like the houses at the North end of Rodanthe at the S-Curve. There is only one house left that now has an immediate effect on the road with its driveway preventing a solid dune. And that will hopefully be solved when/if the area is bridged.

And remember NCDOT considered nourishment as one of the alts for the road at that area. It was rejected because of being at best a temp solution with costly redo every few years.

With similar inlet history at the S-Curve and North end of Buxton, it’s highly unlikely any sand pumped at Buxton will stay very long and the repeated cost to redo it would be prohibitive, just like was determined at the S-Curve.

Back in the 1980s when the road was moved West at the S-Curve many of use said that some of the then vacant lots on the sound side at Mirlo beach should have been taken and the road moved West and raised in that area, but we were not listened to. Note the power line was recently moved West in that area, just like the road should probably have been done years ago.

So at Buxton a reasonable cost solution could be to take some of the land/buildings on the West side of the road and move the road West and raise it in that area, say down to just before Dillons Corner.

salvo jimmy - 06-04-’15 09:46
Sheriff Dillion

@salvo jimmy, I assume you know that all the road moving/saving projects you referred to above were not done with county money. However, in the case of the Buxton project county money is being used, just as it was done to protect Hwy 12 on the northern beaches. In fact, a great deal of the money the county used on the northern beaches was your money too. And, it was all the people’s money too, and the residents of the towns got hit twice, (1) with spending their county money, and (2)by being assessed additional property taxes. Why is Hatteras Island any better? And, why did Hatteras Island not vote in favor of the sales tax for nourishment a few years ago for nourishment? We know why. Because they didn’t think it would benefit them. Now, they want free nourishment????

Sheriff Dillion - 06-04-’15 13:29
salvo jimmy

Sheriff,

And the county should not be spending money to protect the road in Buxton.

I also have no desire to pay to protect private property there. As pointed out by Buxton Resident, unlike the Northern beaches, there is no public parking or access in that area of Buxton. Thus it is different from the North in that only folks in that immediate area can really benefit. So if they want it so bad, then they can pay.

And yeah, I know some of all our money went into the North, but don’t try to imply the main reason was to protect NC 12 up North.

salvo jimmy - 06-04-’15 18:37
salvo jimmy

And Sheriff

I should mention another big difference between Northern beaches and HI beaches.

Those in the North are owned and controlled by the state with only limited access restrictions.

Those on HI are owned and controlled by the Feds with many access restrictions, even for pedestrians.

So why would I want to pay an extra tax to nourish a beach that I could very likely not be able to even walk on.

As to the vote on the nourishment sales tax. It was not supported by many because it is unlikely that the Feds will allow nourishment on any Fed beach on HI for the sake of enhancing the beach for beach goers or to protect private property.

Another big difference in North vs HI.

salvo jimmy - 07-04-’15 06:50
Tim Sacksteder

I would rather have any increase in my taxes go to help rebuild the Rodanthe pier that I use than to dredge Oregon Inlet that I can’t even access.

Tim Sacksteder - 07-04-’15 17:43




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