Tax vote disappoints Hunter

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 13, 2008

WINTON – Hertford County officials are admittedly disappointed.

After last week’s saw election, voters in the county have apparently defeat a proposed one-quarter cent sales and use tax by a 70 percent majority.

“I am upset because I don’t believe the county’s citizens were educated to the point they understood the tax,” Hertford County Commission Chairman Howard J. Hunter III said. “Most people I talked to were in favor of it after the facts were explained to them.

“I guess we didn’t educate the public enough,” he said.

In unofficial tallies, the measure to raise the local sales and use tax in Hertford County by one-quarter of a cent failed by a 3,707 to 1,533 vote.

The measure was on the ballot as part of a deal struck to allow the state of North Carolina to take over Medicaid expenses. In that deal, the state took the county’s local sales tax and allowed them to add a one-quarter cent tax upon approval by the voters.

According to Hunter, an individual that spent $200 a month in Hertford County would have to pay an extra 50 cent if the sales and use tax were passed. If property tax rates were raised to accommodate the same amount of revenue, someone who owned a home valued at $100,000 would see their taxes go up by $45.

“The sales tax is a much fairer tax,” Hunter said. “The entire burden falls on property owners if there is a property tax increase. We would rather see everyone contribute through a sales and use tax.”

Hunter said while the revenue lost to the state would eventually have to be replaced, he was sure the Hertford County Commissioners would not raises taxes during the 2008-2009 budgeting process.

“There is a commitment from all five of us not to raise taxes during this budget process,” he stressed. “If the measure is back on the ballot in November and it doesn’t pass, we will have to look at the property tax rate next year.

“We are going to do everything we can to keep from raising taxes, but the lost revenue has to be replaced,” Hunter added. “I think personally, the quarter cent sales tax would be better for everyone concerned.”

While Hunter said the commissioners remain optimistic about the chances of the measure passing next time, they face an uphill battle.

The sales and use tax went down to defeat in every single precinct in Hertford County.

The strongest opposition came in Como and Harrellsville, both of which saw the measure go down to defeat with 80 percent voting against it. In Como, the vote was 115-27 against and in Harrellsville it was 165-39.

The closest the measure came to passing in any precinct was in Millennium where voters defeated it 93-64 (59.24 percent against) and the mail-in absentee voting where it fell by a 40-27 tally (59.7 percent).

All of the other precincts voted against the measure by margins that showed 60-79 percent against.