Bermuda Run officials have harsh words for county

Published 8:58 am Thursday, February 18, 2016

BERMUDA RUN – Town officials voiced their strong opposition to the possible change of Davie County’s allocation method to sales tax distribution in last week’s town council meeting at town hall.

The mayor, council members and town manager didn’t mince words regarding how they felt about the county commissioners considering shifting from the per capita method to the ad valorem method – where the county would benefit significantly and municipalities such as Bermuda Run (along with Mocksville and Cooleemee) would be dealt a severe financial blow.

“I’m just opposed to the whole damn thing. Period,” said councilman John Guglielmi.

Using the ad valorem method would mean $273,320 less for Bermuda Run, which Mayor Ken Rethmeier said would have “a devastating negative impact on our ability to sustain the level of operations that we have.”

When it was mentioned to add stronger language before a resolution was passed in support of the town urging the county to enter into a joint study with the municipalities regarding sales tax reallocation options, councilman Ed Coley said, “I would, but you can’t write it.”

The county, facing declining revenue, can bring in more dollars by changing the current per capital method based on the population of each municipality to the ad valorem method, which is based on property value.

Representatives of the towns made their voices heard in a meeting in Mocksville the previous week before the county commissioners. Mocksville and Cooleemee have already passed resolutions opposed to the change.

Of the 100 counties in North Carolina, 52 use the per capita method.

Town manager Lee Rollins said that the county has every right, by law, to change the method of distribution – which has been in place since for more than 40 years – if it chooses to do so but doesn’t think Bermuda Run and the other municipalities should be made scapegoats.

“Frankly, they don’t have to come to the municipalities and ask permission,” Rollins said in last Tuesday night’s meeting. “If there’s a dialogue to be had, I think that’s great. But to have continued communication to the residents of Davie County purporting that the consideration for this change is the result of the impact that municipalities have had as a burden of the taxpayers of Davie is ludicrous.”

Rollins told the council that he took particular exception to a Jan. 29 county connection message from Mike Ruffin, the county manager, stating that the county is “incurring and covering costs for its municipalities. Not only are we incurring these costs, there is an increased need for services (including 911, EMS, fire and rescue) these municipalities require pertaining to law and order.”

Bermuda Run entered into a three-year agreement in 2012 with the Davie County Sheriff’s Department for what was referred to as “increased patrols” for $22,136.

With the interlocal agreement set to expire June 30, 2015, Rollins noted receiving communication from Ruffin earlier that month about the sheriff presenting his budget, and board members questioning why Bermuda Run wasn’t being charged more for sheriff’s services and asking why the town should not pay the cost for one deputy.

“There was never a conversation forwarded by Bermuda Run officials that the town requested a full-time presence within the corporate boundaries,” Rollins said. “The request for increased patrols over the course of four months turned on its head, with the county claiming the sherriff’s department was already providing 24/7 protection, which equates to five officers, which equates to $231,000 annually.”

So the town opted not to enter into an agreement for “additional services the town will receive from the county sheriff department above and beyond the standard services all county residents receive…”

In the communication from the county manager, it was stated that the town was asked to cover half of the $230,000 but rejected the county’s request, opting to allow the county to fully provide services for the area.

Rollins asked if Bermuda Run businesses and residents pay county taxes for “standard” county services, how can the county make the claim that it is “incurring and covering costs for its municipalities” as one of the reasons it is looking at generating additional revenue sources with a change in sales tax distribution method.

“I need help understanding that county taxpayers that reside in the Bermuda Run corporate limit, and provide approximately 26 percent of their taxes ($960,755) toward public safety, is incurring costs for the county,” Rollins said.

The issue continues to be reviewed and discussed with no action expected until April, if then, by the county commissioners.

“Don’t get hung up on April 1,” said Hank Van Hoy, the town attorney for Mocksville who was at last week’s meeting in Bermuda Run. “They will have to make a decision by April only if they do it this year.”

Rethmeier said that it’s a matter of doing what’s fair and equitable to all throughout Davie County.

“My perception is that they’re using the sheriff’s office issue as a wedge to try to create a situation that’s a distraction away from the real issue,” he said.

Rethmeier added that there is something even more troubling to him regarding this situation.

“It’s not sheriff’s issue, not the money,” he said. “Those are symptoms of a disease. There’s an underlying issue, which is for some reason the county believes that it’s appropriate for people who live in towns to not receive the same level of service that their property taxes pay for as everyone else in the county. That gets into a deeper issue, and that’s values. My concern is more about values, and that’s not the right way to do things.”