HC grows in the wrong place

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Hertford County….here we grow again.

But it’s not the type of growth this certain journalist, one that also lives in the county named for the Earl of Hertford, is pleased with.

On Monday, Hertford County Manager Loria Williams laid out her proposed 2006-07 fiscal year budget in front of the Hertford County Board of Commissioners. While I did not cover that meeting, I hope there were few groans coming from Hertford’s elected leaders. If not, I fear the worse n Williams’ proposal, which includes a two-cent hike in our property taxes, will be accepted with open arms.

It’s not the fact that an additional two cents will drive my family into bankruptcy court. Rather, my concerns are aimed at an apparent lack of focus by Hertford County’s government leaders.

I base my concerns on simple facts, all obtained from a report filed at the end of the 2004-05 fiscal year by the North Carolina State Treasurer.

Did you know that Hertford County generates almost as much revenue ($10.85 million) from property tax than Bertie ($7.68 million) and Gates ($4.28 million) combined? Northampton’s property tax revenue totals $10.72 million.

Did you know that the tax levied on vehicles owned and operated by Hertford County residents is the highest ($1.45 million) in the local four-county region? From that same tax, Northampton generates $1.18 million; Bertie was projected to collect $1.06 million while Gates was listed at $650,799.

Did you know that Hertford County leads the Roanoke-Chowan area (and is ranked in the top third of the state’s listings) in sales and use tax revenue? Hertford County’s share of those taxes is $3.78 million, more than Bertie ($2.29 million) and Gates ($1.43 million) combined. Northampton generates $2.23 million from sales and use taxes.

But there’s one area where Hertford County leads the way locally that its citizens are not too happy about n property tax. In the local four-county area, Hertford County tops the list at a current rate of 91 cents per $100 of property value. That’s higher than Bertie (78 cents), Gates (87 cents) and Northampton (88 cents). It’s even higher than our northeastern North Carolina neighbors n Chowan County (78 cents), Halifax (86.5 cents), Martin (78.5 cents), Pasquotank (84 cents) and Perquimans (67 cents).

Hertford County’s tax rate is even higher than Williams’ previous place of employment n Warren County (84 cents).

As a matter of fact, Hertford County’s property tax rate is currently the fourth highest in the state, trailing only Scotland ($1.10), Edgecombe (93 cents) and Vance (92 cents). Ours will be even higher if Williams’ wish is granted by the Hertford County Board of Commissioners.

What will the commissioners do? Will they bend to the wishes of the county manager n who, by the way, came here from Warren County where she was first suspended for questionable management practices and later fired? Or will they look to streamline the county budget in other ways in order to prevent a tax hike?

Or, if past history prevails, will the commissioners bury their collective heads in the sand while they set their sights on much tougher issues n like ranting and raving over the political ads published in this newspaper by a challenger for one of the incumbent’s seats. Come on guys, don’t you have more important things to do other than to purchase a rebuttal ad so vague that it made it appear that the entire front page of the April 22nd edition of this newspaper was wrong when you really meant to direct your attention to the wording in one little ad.

The current election cycle for county commissioner is over, not unless an unaffiliated candidate gains enough petition support to place his or her name on the General Election ballot in November. Even with that wishful thinking, I strongly feel as I write this column on Tuesday afternoon that the stronghold in Winton will remain intact.

And where does that leave us, the citizens of Hertford County? Probably holding a two-cent tax increase beginning July 1. If that happens, the only thing I can share with Hertford County citizens is remember this tax hike during the 2008 elections.