Pennies add up to needed dollars

Published 10:43 am Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Last week’s Primary, just like any election, had its fair share of intrigue.

Here in the Roanoke-Chowan area, we witnessed two sitting chairmen of a county Board of Commissioners defeated (Hertford and Northampton); two other incumbent Commissioners fall by the wayside (Northampton); an Interim Sheriff finish second in a four-man Democratic race (Gates); a former Sheriff taking one step forward towards a Commissioner seat (Bertie); and, if the General Election follows suit, there will be three women serving as Commissioners at the same time in Northampton; something that’s never happened since the county was born in 1741.

Another tidbit of information to come out of last week’s Primary is that voter turnout was dismal, to say the least. Why take the time and effort to register to vote and then choose not to participate? You had plenty of opportunities to cast a ballot thanks to the two weeks worth of One-Stop (early voting), which, by the way as I’ve previously stated, is a total waste of time and taxpayer money in small, rural areas.

Voter turnout in the R-C area was led by Northampton, but even in my home county it was only 30.8 percent. It was worse in Hertford (29.6%), Gates (28.9%) and Bertie (28.5%).

And before moving on to the meat of this column, I need to offer congratulations to all of last week’s winners. However, my tip-of-the-cap to the Primary victors comes with a word of advice….you have yet to earn any title. While some of the Democratic winners in the Primary face Republican or Unaffiliated candidates during the General Election, those unchallenged in November still have the formality of another election. That’s the vote that counts when earning the title of a commissioner, a sheriff, a clerk of court, a register of deeds, etc.

Now comes the real purpose of this column.

I took note that Bertie County’s registered voters overwhelmingly defeated a referendum that would have raised the local sales tax by one quarter of one penny.

Perhaps my family members and friends over in Bertie didn’t quite understand what they were voting on.

The same thing happened in Hertford County a few years back. Most thought the referendum was calling for a quarter (25 cents) of new sales tax. I wrote a column at that time trying to explain that the state prohibits such a drastic tax increase. Rather, it’s one quarter of one penny. You would have to make a purchase of at least $4 to have your sales tax increase by a whopping one penny.

Example, on Saturday I purchased my wife a colorful hanging basket for Mother’s Day. Included in my purchase was a Diet Dew for myself. Under the new sales tax rate in Hertford County (one quarter of one penny to go along with the other traditional state and local taxes), my tax on those two items was four pennies higher than what it would have been under the old rate. I spent roughly one nickel more to make that purchase.

And here’s something else for Bertie residents to ponder. If you leave your county to purchase the majority of your personal or household items, more than likely are you are paying a local option sales tax. Of the counties that Bertie residents tend to shop, Hertford, Martin, Halifax and Pitt have a one quarter of one cent local option sales tax.

What does that mean for Bertie residents? They are supporting the tax base in those counties rather than their own. In Hertford County, this added tax is set aside to help make the annual debt service payment on the new courthouse and county administration building.

Bertie County officials had planned to use this additional revenue, if approved, to fund teacher supplements, which helps attract and retain quality classroom instructors for schoolchildren.

I would encourage Bertie County voters to think about that the next time this referendum appears on your ballot.


Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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