Quarter-Cent Sales Tax Option Referendum, Revisited

A majority of the attending members of the Crystal Coast Tea Party Patriots, at their vote meeting of October 7th, decided that we should oppose the proposed quarter-cent sales tax option for Carteret County.  However, in the interim since then, at least one member of the Carteret County Commissioners has come before us to argue that we should reconsider.  The Commissioner was Co-Chairman Robin Comer, and his remarks are summarized in my earlier post about the meeting, HERE.

Even among a slate of all-Republican Commissioners, we don’t often see complete unity on an issue.  However, it appears that in this case, the other Commissioners are fully in accord with Co-Chairman Robin Comer’s views.  Therefore, I think we should lend an ear to their arguments, and consider them carefully.  Toward that end, the following points are added to the ones summarized in my previous post:

  • If the referendum passes and the quarter-cent sales tax is implemented, it is expected to generate $2.5-million annually.  If it does not pass and the Commissioners are forced to turn to a property tax increase instead, the property taxing rate would need to rise about 1.49-cents per $100 valuation in order to generate the same amount of revenue.
  • Since Carteret County’s economy is so dependent on tourism, and the attraction of our navigable waterways such an integral part of our appeal to tourists, the County estimates that over half (between 55% and 60%) of the revenue raised from the quarter-cent sales tax will be paid by visitors to the County rather than by County residents.  This helps to ensure that all the beneficiaries of waterway maintenance participate in its cost.
  • Like most of our readers, I am generally opposed to tax increases of any stripe.  However, to keep this in perspective, consider the following; were any individual to spend $10,000 within Carteret County in a given year on goods and/or services subject to the tax, his total expenditure from the quarter-cent option would be only $25.
  • To lessen the burden of the quarter-cent tax on our County residents even further, food, gasoline, prescription drugs, certain agricultural supplies, and motor vehicle purchases are exempted.
  • In answer to the question of what will be done with any quarter-cent tax revenue that exceeds the amount needed for waterway maintenance in any given year, Robin Comer and other Commissioners have stated that consideration would be given to using some of the funds for ditching projects within the County to address flooding problems.
  • The Commissioners intend to set up a Waterways Management Committee (WMC), with each of the seven members to be appointed by the Commissioner from their district.  In this way, the dredging agenda from all areas of the County will be given equal consideration when the WMC votes on waterway priorities.  This method will ensure that, for example, the Newport River will not be disenfranchised in favor of Taylor’s Creek or other waterways.
  • To address the concerns of those who fear that the revenue from the quarter-cent sales tax would soon get diverted to other uses, the Commissioners have pledged, in a formal resolution, HERE, to isolate the revenues and related expenses within the County budget in order to make them transparent to the public.  The key phrases (edited for brevity) from the resolution are:

Whereas, the Board of Commissioners intends to allocate … tax proceeds for waterway dredging and maintenance and intends to appoint a waterways management board to prioritize the need for these purposes and administer the funds to accomplish same; and

Whereas, to distinguish and separate the revenues produced by this … tax …, a Special Revenue Fund will be established to receive and account for the sales tax revenue.

Now, there be it resolved, that the Carteret County Board of Commissioners hereby states its intent to use the revenues from … the tax … for waterway dredging and maintenance within Carteret County with a schedule implementation date of April 1, 2015.

Within the last few days, I have personally spoken to four of the seven current Commissioners, as well as to Mike Mansfield, the candidate running for a seat on the Board from District 3.  All four Commissioners have assured me that the vote for the Resolution (see above) was unanimous, and that they, along with Mansfield, are fully committed to seeing that the revenue from the quarter-cent option, should the referendum pass, be dedicated now and for the foreseeable future to waterway maintenance and dredging.  Chairman Robinson, moreover, declared that, with the way the Commissioners and County fiscal staff intend to set up the Special Revenue Fund, any other use would be so conspicuous as to invite the immediate condemnation of the concerned citizenry, and any Commissioner voting to allow such a diversion would put his re-election in jeopardy.

Let us make no mistake.  For as far into the future as we care to contemplate, waterway dredging and maintenance will continue to be vital to the economy of Carteret County, so the money to continue doing it MUST come from somewhere.  Since the federal funding has virtually dried up for projects other than maintenance of the Beaufort Inlet channel, and the State funding is available only in the form of a 50/50 match, the Commissioners have only two viable alternatives for finding the bulk of the needed money; either it comes from sales taxes, or from property taxes.

Resource materials on this issue are now up on the County website’s Home Page.  To view the informational brochure directly, click HERE, and to read the FAQ, click HERE.