One more time

Published 8:36 am Thursday, August 14, 2014

WINDSOR – The cliché says, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.”

This time, Bertie County officials are hoping the county’s voters won’t need a third try.

Tuesday the county’s Board of Elections accepted a resolution from the Bertie County Board of Commissioners requesting the One Quarter Cent (1/4¢) County Sales and Use Tax increase be placed on the ballot in the Nov. 4 general election.  County Manager Scott Sauer was the one who presented the resolution to the elections board.

Bertie voters soundly defeated the measure when it appeared on the ballot in the May 6 primary with 2,386 votes against to 1,905 votes for the tax or 68.54 % to 31.46 %.

At their Aug. 4 meeting, Bertie Commissioner Ronald D. “Ron” Wesson introduced the resolution, seconded by Commissioner Charles Smith, and it was unanimously approved by the entire board.

Now the county must do a better job than was done in the May primary of selling the sales tax increase idea to the Bertie voters.

“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 last week 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 very pleased with the Board of Elections’ decision,” Sauer said this week.

“We hope people realize that it’s really a tax they’re already paying, just that the 6.75 percent county sales tax is merely rounded off,” he added.

“What we’ll probably see is something like a ‘speaker’s bureau’ where the commissioners will address the issue to the voters at various functions across the county,” Sauer maintained. “As the commissioners’ meetings are moved about the county this summer and fall, we’re hoping that will present another chance for them to get the word out.”

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.

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.  Once enacted, the tax has raised $933,687 in revenue for the county with the money going into a special reserve fund for capital projects.

“It’s the fairest tax there is,” Hertford County Manager Loria Williams said last week. “It broadens your revenue stream.”

It should be noted 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.

While admitting that the bulk of the sales tax revenue is kept by the state, Sauer feels that $160,000 that the tax would raise on goods and services sold within the county would come back to Bertie if the increase is passed.

“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.”