Tax change angers BR board

Published 9:10 am Thursday, April 21, 2016

BERMUDA RUN – Now that the Davie County Commissioners have voted to change how sales tax is distributed, Bermuda Run enters the budget season looking at a potential $273,000 shortfall.

That’s the amount of sales tax proceeds that will be shifted to the county after the commissioners voted 3-2 on April 4 to change the method of distribution. Ultimately, that could bring about $1.4 million more into county coffers while taking funding away from the towns – Bermuda Run, Cooleemee and Mocksville – with the switch to the ad valorem system.

Lee Rollins, town manager for Bermuda Run, figured he would go ahead even before the vote and prepare for the worst as he started work on the town’s 2016-17 fiscal year budget.

“Last month at our agenda meeting, I’d already provided council with sort of a working draft and a contingency budget that took that $273,000 (sales tax) out,” Rollins said. “So now it’s going to be up to them to debate whether we hold firm with core services and not utilize funds for capital projects like the greenways and other things. Or are we going to talk to our citizens and maybe give up trash pickup – let folks pay for that – and allow for those other projects?”

In last Tuesday night’s meeting, council members and the mayor again voiced their frustration over the controversial issue.

“I was out of town when the Monday (April 4) circus took place, and that was a joy,” said councilman Jerry West. “But I got the results of it, and now based on conversations the neighbors are having with each of us, we’ll have to work through that and see what’s the best action going forward. There’s a lot of frustration in the community, that’s for sure.”

Councilwoman Shirley Cagle agreed.

“I just want to express my frustration and my dismay on what happened last Monday,” she said. “I also hope that we can be a help to Cooleemee and also Mocksville in this whole situation. Everyone that I’ve talked to is frustrated, and they’re all willing to do what we need to do to see a change.”

Mayor Ken Rethmeier said that the towns have been vilified and the subject of criticism in the media and others for somehow being responsible for the county’s problems.

“And last Monday night, the three commissioners who voted in favor of the resolution to switch to ad valorem presented, in my opinion, some of the most bizarre comments I’ve ever heard without any data to substantiate their positions and drawing analogies for which there is no logical conclusion that you can come to that would suggest you would change,” Rethmeier said. “The problem is that it has caused irreparable and permanent damage in relationships that are defined between municipalities and counties in terms of values, behavior and trust.”

There has been some speculation that the commissioners are considering a “hold harmless” provision where the towns, including Bermuda Run, would continue to receive the same amount of sales tax for next year.

“I’m preparing for the worst case scenario,” Rollins said. “We’ll find out May 2 when the commissioners meet. That’s when they’re supposed to officially let us know.”

As Rollins has previously stated, the state statutes allow counties every April to adopt a resolution to let the Department of Revenue know how they want sales tax allocated. The split across the state has been close to 50-50, and Forsyth County is one of the counties that uses the ad valorem method.

“They have the right to do it,” Rollins said of the vote in favor of the change by the Davie commissioners. “I just took issue as to their rationale on why. Like I told (county manager) Mike Ruffin, we’ll agree to disagree and move on.”

Meanwhile, Rethmeier said that the town will continue to support the needs of Bermuda Run and its residents to the best of its ability.

“That’s our job, and we’re going to do it regardless of the obstacles that we face,” he said. “You can count on it.”

In other business, the council:

• Approved a resolution accepting Kinderton Village streets into the town street system. It is the final written document making it clear of the town’s responsibility to maintain the streets in Kinderton’s residential community.

• Approved the town audit contract to continue with Eddie Carrick, CPA, for the same price as last year.

• Also approved the 2015-16 Tourism Development Authority audit contract with Eddie Carrick, CPA.