Second time around

Published 6:28 pm Sunday, August 10, 2014

WINDSOR – Having said no to the One Quarter Cent (1/4¢) County Sales and Use Tax during the May primary, Bertie County voters could be getting a second chance to decide on increasing sales tax in the county by one-quarter of a penny.

At its Aug. 4 meeting the Bertie County Board of Commissioners introduced a resolution calling for the county’s Board of Elections when it meets Tuesday (Aug. 12) to place a vote on the tax back on the ballot in the Nov. 4 general election.

Bertie Commissioner Ronald D. “Ron” Wesson introduced the resolution, seconded by Commissioner Charles Smith.  County Manager Scott Sauer will deliver the resolution to the elections board at next week’s meeting.

“We’re hoping with nearly three months (until the general election) that it gives time for more information to get out to the voters,” Sauer said in a telephone interview.

Sauer said if the tax is adopted it could be used to assist in financing public projects, including debt service, and the existing debt service for the new Bertie High School which will be opening in less than three-and-a-half weeks.

“We’re hopeful for a great effort to get the word out to the voters,” Sauer added. “If the voters understand it, they will get more comfortable with it.”

If Bertie voters want to see the benefits of a quarter-of-one cent sales tax increase, they need look no further than across the county line to Hertford County.

“It’s been more than beneficial,” said Hertford County Manager Loria Williams in a telephone interview.

In all, Hertford County voters faced a similar vote on a sales tax increase three separate times.  Twice it was voted down before it was finally approved thanks to a referendum held in March of 2010.

“Since it was enacted the county has raised $933,687”, Williams said. “The money has gone into a special reserve fund for capital projects and it will be spent where we have always said we would spend it.”

Williams went on to point out that if Bertie voters approved the sales tax increase, it’s probably doubtful that Bertie would raise a similar amount over the same time period, but nonetheless she still touted the benefits of the increase.

“It’s the fairest tax there is,” Williams maintained. “It broadens your revenue stream.”

The Bertie Commissioners have said they plan to vigorously market the benefits of the one quarter-of-one cent sales and use tax increase prior to the general election.

While admitting that the bulk of the sales tax revenue is kept by the state, Sauer feels that $160,000 would come back the county if the increase is passed.

Bertie’s current tax rate is 84¢ on the dollar.

“Enacting this tax would be a significant savings to the county,” Sauer said. “One cent would equal $115,000, and think how that would impact the county; and it would be paid by everyone every time they spend money in Bertie County.”