Policy Report

Get the Math Right: Columbus County leaders are wrong about proposed tax hike’s size, need

posted on in City & County Government, Energy & Environment, Spending & Taxes
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Key Points:

  • Columbus County commissioners are overselling the value of a proposed tax increase to voters by at least $300,000.
  • County commissioners have repeatedly said the new quarter-cent sales tax increase would raise $1.0 million, but recent county estimates suggest the tax would bring in about $700,000. That would be equivalent to a 2.2-cent property tax rate increase.
  • The upcoming referendum is the third time since 2007 the county has sought a tax increase.
  • County commissioners plan to spend $5,000 on a committee to “educate citizens … about the advantages” of their desired sales tax hike. Three county commissioners are non-voting members of that committee.
  • Commissioners passed a resolution to use money for capital projects, but the tax would have no end date. Commissioners could still use the new tax revenues for any legal purpose, not just those stated.
  • No specific projects have been identified to receive funding, although 20 schools, the community college, department of aging, and courthouse are all listed as in need of improvement.
  • Property taxes in Columbus County are 81.5 cents per $100 valuation this year, up from 73.0 cents five years ago — a 12 percent increase.
  • Since the special county taxing authority was established by the legislature in 2007, voters have turned down 68 of 85 requests for tax increases, sending the message that county commissioners must be more responsible stewards of taxpayers’ hard-earned money before voters will entrust them with tax increases.
  • Columbus County voters should think twice before harming small employers with a tax increase of ambiguous size for ambiguous purposes.

Regional Brief 85 Get the Math Right: Columbus County leaders are wrong about proposed tax hike’s size, need

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