Town tax collection rate lowered in HC

Published 11:07 am Monday, November 26, 2018

WINTON – When you are operating a shoestring budget, every penny counts.

Murfreesboro Mayor Hal Thomas realizes that fact and because of his efforts, his town as well as other municipalities in Hertford County stand to recoup a small portion of their losses on the heels of a county government decision to raise the rate charged to local towns to collect their property taxes.

Speaking here Monday night during the public comments portion of the regularly scheduled meeting of the Hertford County Board of Commissioners, Thomas asked the board members to consider lowering the percentage rate charged by the county for collecting municipal taxes.

That rate had increased from three to four percent when the county approved its FY 2018-19 operating budget, which became effective July 1.

“I am asking you to reconsider your earlier decision that called for the municipalities pay a four percent fee to collect our taxes,” Thomas said as he stood before the commissioners. “We have met with several other towns here in the county; we have met with your county attorney and your county manager. We would like to reach a compromise of 3.5 percent (collection rate).”

Thomas noted that four percent was higher than any other county in eastern North Carolina. He referenced Northampton County in particular, saying they charge a 1.5 percent fee to collect property taxes for their municipalities.

“We would be willing at a 3.5 percent fee to sign a multi-year contract with the county and review it each year,” Thomas said.

County Manager Loria Williams said the towns of Murfreesboro, Ahoskie and Winton were the ones that had yet to agree to Hertford County’s new four percent rate to collect their taxes.

At the old (three percent) rate, the town of Murfreesboro paid the county $23,649 to collect its 2017-18 ad valorum taxes, which amounted to $788,286.29 (to include prior year levies and interest). If the same amount was on the books to collect for 2018-19, the town of Murfreesboro would owe Hertford County $31,531. At a 3.5 percent collection rate, that figure is at $27,590.

Using the 2017-18 numbers (and a 3% fee), the town of Ahoskie paid the county $77,155 to collect its $2.57 million in property taxes while Winton paid $6,188 (to collect $206,257.74).

After a scheduled closed session at Monday’s meeting, the commissioners returned to open session and approved the following motion:

“In recognition of the situation that Hertford County based its budget on a 4.0% collection rate and the municipalities based their budgets on a 3.0% collection rate, Hertford County offers a contract to collect ad valorem taxes for all municipalities in Hertford County at a rate of 3.5% for all taxes collected, real and personal, effective July 1, 2018 for a period of three years, ending June 30, 2021.”

When asked by this newspaper how that budget deficit will be addressed, Assistant County Manager Juan Vaughan II said the difference will not be made up; there will be a loss in that line item.

Murfreesboro’s elected officials first discussed the matter regarding the one percent increase at their June 27 meeting. There, town officials said they had been notified of the increase in a letter dated June 1 from the county.

“We already had our (2018-19) budget in place and this letter came afterwards,” said Murfreesboro Town Clerk Carolyn Brown during the June 27 meeting. It was at that same meeting where the Murfreesboro Town Council adopted the new fiscal year budget.

The News Herald contacted other municipalities in Hertford County and many reported that the notification letter had been received after the towns had already drawn up their proposed budgets for the 2018-19 fiscal year.

Ahoskie Town Manager Kerry McDuffie said at that time the Town Council had voted for and adopted their new budget before knowing about the increase.

McDuffie stated he and Brown had worked together to send a letter on June 29 expressing their concerns to Loria Williams.


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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