Clueless voters favor property tax hike

Published 5:02 pm Monday, November 10, 2008

Let me be the first to inform the uninformed voters of Hertford County that a tax hike is in your immediate future.

Don’t turn to Barack, Bev or Butterfield for help. They cannot save you from your fate since this particular tax hike is a local decision made by local leaders.

Without the hopeful 0.25 percent local sales and use tax hike that was offered as a referendum on the Nov. 4 General Election ballot, the Hertford County Board of Commissioners now have no other choice than to raise property taxes. They need additional operating funds on the heels of last year’s less-than-desirable decision made by the state’s General Assembly in regards to a takeover of each county’s payments to the federal Medicaid program.

The Commissioners tried their best to generate those needed funds without a property tax hike. Since it’s the property owners in Hertford County who pay the lion’s share of taxes, having an increase that would affect all individuals was the fairest way to generate these extra funds.

The proposed tax hike was a small one; no, make that a minuscule one. What the Commissioners wanted was 0.25 percent, meaning for every $4 purchase, our sales tax would have increased by one penny. Spend 100 bucks and pay an extra quarter (that 25 cents for those lacking basic math skills).

Based upon old numbers (the last report I could find online was from the 2006-07 fiscal year), Hertford County’s taxable retail sales of $175.8 million could have generated an additional $400,000 annually with a simple 0.25 percent sales tax hike.

But it wasn’t to be.

Instead, the overall tax burden remains with the property owners. We already contribute $10-to-$12 million annually to finance the county’s $22 million budget. We also help float the financial ship by paying sales tax. Now, thanks to uninformed voters who apparently either struggle with simple math or just don’t give a fat baby’s behind, the county’s property owners still bear the brunt of the tax burden.

At least there were 4,069 Hertford County voters who understood the situation, that according to the unofficial tally from last week’s election. Unfortunately, there were 4,559 voters who didn’t have a clue.

What’s even more bizarre is that, unofficially, 10,708 Hertford County citizens went to the polls last week. Of those, 8,608 opted to take part in the tax referendum. That leaves 2,100 voters who didn’t bother with that portion of the ballot.

Again, based on simple math, if 1-in-4 of those indecisive voters would have penciled in the “Yes” circle next to the proposed tax hike, the measure would have been approved by a 15-vote margin. Your indecision just cost me and other Hertford County property owners a tax hike and you can bet it’s going to be more than a penny.

(Cal Bryant is Editor of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index. He can be reached at or 252-332-7207.)