JLF Research | Policy Reports

A Quarter-Million More for Montgomery? Secretive county seeks a third tax increase in three years

Nov. 1st, 2011
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Key points:

  • Montgomery County commissioners have raised the property tax by nine cents over the last three years, from 58 cents to 67 cents per $100 valuation — a 15.5 percent increase.
  • Now the commissioners want voters to approve a quarter-cent sales-tax increase worth an estimated $250,000 — an amount that would be about the same as another one-cent increase in the property tax. If voters approve this tax increase, it would add a quarter-million dollars more to the $1.7 million increase in county revenue over the past two financial years.
  • Between fiscal years 2009 and 2010, the property-tax intake increased by 6.1 percent and total revenue increased by 5.0 percent (accounting for inflation).
  • Commissioners have not promised to use this tax increase to rescind past property-tax increases; they say they would spend the new revenue for capital improvements for county schools.
  • Since 2006, however, Montgomery County Schools have received $1.9 million in lottery money, and since 2005 the schools have gotten $5.8 million from local sources for school capital needs.
  • Regardless of how commissioners say they would spend the new revenue, their promises are not legally binding. Current and future commissions would be free to spend the funds from the tax increase on any legal purpose, and taxpayers would have no legal recourse against it.
  • Taxpayers have little access to online information about county government. The county does not have the checkbook, contracts, future liability for retirees, Capital Improvement Plan, number of employees, audit reports, salaries of employees by job code, nor the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report available online.
  • Since the special county taxing authority was established by the legislature in 2007, voters have rejected 82 of 101 requests for tax increases, sending the message that county commissioners must be more responsible stewards of taxpayers’ hard-earned money.
  • Montgomery County Schools had a low return on investment in comparison with those of other school districts in North Carolina, according to a 2011 study of educational productivity conducted by the Center for American Progress.
  • Montgomery County voters should have an opportunity to assess the district’s facilities plan, as well as the long-term plan to finance the debt, before they vote on any tax increases.

 

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