Officials tout positives of proposed sales tax

Published 9:36 am Thursday, October 11, 2018

A proposed quarter-cent sales tax on the November ballot will allow residents of Davie County to support fire, emergency services (EMS), rescue squad, 911/communications and law enforcement service.

As public safety officials are faced with increased demands that are needed to keep community members safe, this method of funding will allow visitors and tourists to help infuse funds dedicated to public safety, said County Manager John Eller.

“This 1/4 cent sales and use tax allows anyone who spends money in Davie County (on certain items), to support public safety services, and not bear the burden strictly on property owners,” he said. “This will generate more than $800,000 during its first year. As a comparison, it would take an increase of $1.76 in property taxes to achieve this same level of funding. Therefore, the 1/4 cent sales and use tax for public safety is a much better way of generating the revenue needed to meet our public safety needs.”

Several surrounding counties have levied the tax including Rowan and Davidson. Forsyth and Iredell counties will also offer this to their voters in November.

Only certain items would be subject to the new tax rate.  Items such as clothing, household supplies, electronics and prepared food and drinks (i.e. restaurant/store) would be taxed. For example, a purchase made at a local restaurant in the amount of $30, would cost buyers an additional 8-cents. Items such as groceries (unprepared foods), prescription medication, gasoline, certain agricultural supplies and motor vehicles would not be subject to the sales tax.

Commissioner-Elect Benita Finney supports the tax for public safety and hopes residents will join her in supporting it.

“For over 10 years, our local fire departments have been faced with added responsibilities and escalating expenses while receiving no increase in their budgets. I commend our current board of commissioners for their efforts in developing a method of providing support to our public safety heroes who sacrifice daily to ensure our safety,” she said. “The ¼ cent sales and use tax option provides an avenue to increase support without the responsibility falling solely on property owners.”

If passed by voters in November, all funds generated would go to support fire, emergency services (EMS), rescue squad, 911/Communications and law enforcement. Fifty percent of the funds generated would go directly to fire departments that are largely manned by volunteers, resulting in a minimum increase of $40,000 for all departments.

“I hope that the residents of Davie County will see how this is a fair way to generate funds,” said Todd Naylor, Farmington Fire Department chief. “Many folks pass through Davie County on a daily basis and use our public safety services. This allows them to contribute to the cost of services provided by responders, allowing our county to avoid bearing the burden on property owners through property tax increases.

“In addition, manpower in general, has become an issue for our volunteer services county-wide. The number of individuals interested or willing to volunteer in the community has declined and in order to ensure response times are kept to a minimum, we are finding ourselves forced to hire firefighters for daytime coverage (when our volunteers are working regular jobs that provide for their families during the day). This additional funding would help us in making sure our departments have someone on staff anytime an emergency arises.”

Davie funds all departments at no less than 4-cents through the 4-cent fire tax that was approved in 1981. This means that for each $100 of property value, the property owner pays 4-cents per year. Example: property with a tax value of $100,000 costs $40 per year in fire tax and that collected tax is paid to the district where property resides.

However, the county does not believe that a fire district should be forced to provide lesser fire safety due to low property value in their district, Eller said. The minimum amount that fire districts are funded is $135,129 which equates to more than $.04/$100.00 in several districts.

Since the 4-cent fire tax was passed in 1981, commissioners have supplanted additional funding from fund balance (as budgets have allowed), but no additional funding has been approved by voters.

“I feel we all can agree that times are much different than they were in 1981.  The issues that our first responders are faced with have certainly increased and their need for additional resources, which requires additional funding, is real,” Eller said. “We must find a way to support the services they provide (financially) which keep us safe, and we feel the 1/4 cent sales and use tax will do that (without all impact bore on property owners).”

“The proposed distribution for the 1/4-cent sales and use tax for public safety would move all fire departments to a new funding level, with no department in the county receiving less than $175,129 – a substantial increase of $40,000 that is not only needed but long overdue,” said Terry Renegar, chair of the Davie County Board of Commissioners.

“We can think of no better time and reason to explore this tax revenue. The county has not increased property taxes for operations in over 10 years, other than what voters have approved for specific items approved on referendums.  Our emergency service providers are being faced with new dilemmas that not only require increased manpower, but access to training and equipment that is needed to respond in certain events so that we are protected,” Eller said.

“We have to maintain our current quality of life in Davie County as it relates to public safety, while also preparing for the future.  This is everyone’s opportunity to do a small part to help keep our community safe.”

Four town hall meetings are scheduled to share with interested community members how this is different from a property tax, why it is needed and how it will be distributed to public safety entities. All meetings will begin at 6:30 p.m.

• Monday, Oct. 15, Fork Civic Center, US 64 East, Advance;

• Tuesday, Oct. 16, Davie County Early College, US 601 S., Mocksville; and

Tuesday, Oct. 23, Farmington Community Center, Farmington Road, Mocksville.