Local, state agencies aiding pro-sales tax hike group

Richmond County TDA gives group $60,000, including $55,000 via private donations
Sales tax increase could generate $600,000 to $700,000 per year

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

ROCKINGHAM — At first glance, the Committee to Promote Growth and Economic Development is a grassroots collection of parents, many of whom have children who play baseball, softball and soccer and who stand to benefit from a new Richmond County Sports Complex.

The Richmond County Commissioners in July approved putting the initiative on the Nov. 4 ballot a sales tax increase of a one-fourth of cent. If approved by voters, the county sales tax rate would increase to 7 percent from 6.75 percent. In other words, for every $1 spent, the consumer would be taxed 7 cents beginning Jan. 1, 2015.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

The hike, if approved, is expected to raise between $600,000 and $700,000 each year towards the project, said Martie Butler, of Richmond County’s economic development team.

Committee members include Keith Parsons, Vagas Jackson, Kristie Long, Michelle Parrish, Alan Anderson, Charles Hudson, Danny Lampley, Earl Nicholson, Eddie Sampson, Eric Thompson, Jackie Webb, Jamie Lambeth, Jennifer Wrenn, Matthew Liles and Mica Way. Many, if not all, have children that played in athletic All-Star tournaments and travel tournaments this past summer in Laurinburg, Carthage, Garner, Troy, Eden, Davidson and more.

But the group has some brains behind it, and because of that it also has some funding. Since Friday, the group has launched a Facebook page and website — VoteYesforParksandRec.com — and placed many of its first batch of 1,000 campaign signs in front yards across Richmond County.

At its Aug. 12 meeting, the Richmond County Tourism Development Authority voted to give the group $60,000 towards promoting the sales tax hike and the project — $55,000 of that came by way of private donations and $5,000 from hotel/motel tax revenue, which funds the TDA. And whatever members of the Committee to Promote Growth and Economic Development don’t know, Parsons said Campaign Connections, a Raleigh-based political consulting and marketing firm, is a phone call or email away.

The TDA is governed by a seven-member board, with four members appointed by the Richmond County Commissioners, two by Rockingham City Council and one from the Richmond County Chamber of Commerce. Rockingham City Manager Monty Crump, city planner John Massey and Kim Williams, events coordinator, serve as the non-paid interim staff of the TDA, per an agreement between the city and TDA, until the TDA approves and implements a new staff/support structure.

To be sure, the project — as proposed in the city of Rockingham’s Master Plan as designed by WHN Architects, of Charlotte — would alter the landscape of about 118 acres off Old Aberdeen Road. The facility would include four baseball/softball fields, three youth baseball/softball fields, four more adult baseball/softball fields, an 18-hole disk golf course, a tennis facility, a soccer complex comprised of five playing fields and an activity center, complete with a miniature train, a splash park, a carousel, a playground and a dog park, among other amenities.

The project, as proposed, would be completed in seven phases, led by a four-field baseball complex and infrastructure improvements to set the stage for the following six phases. There is no price tag to the overall project available on the city of Rockingham’s website.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

For group members, it’s a double-sided argument — which is reflected in the campaign’s red, white and blue signs on which one side encourages “Vote yes for progress and growth” and, on the other, “Vote yes for progress and growth.” Parsons said it’s been “a very easy process” to gain supporters.

“It’s really just a matter of explaining our position,” Parsons said. ”

Along with the county commissioners and city of Rockingham, the Richmond County Chamber of Commerce and the Richmond County Board of Realtors already have endorsed the sales tax hike initiative and the project. On Tuesdsay, the Rockingham Downtown Corporation added its name to the growing list of supporters.

Butler said she was tasked with finding out about similar sports complex funding initiatives in Orange, Montgomery and Alamance counties. All three passed, though it took Orange County two attempts to gain a simple majority of voters’ support.

Butler said it’s all about “heads in beds” and such a complex would be able to host a wide range of tournaments that attract teams far away enough to stay in hotels once in Rockingham.

It would have, she said Tuesday to the group of downtown Rockingham business owners, “a big economic impact.”

In addition, Butler said she and others are hoping for “a snowball effect” — the more visitors to Richmond County, the more likely someone will visit and want to put down roots or invest.

She called the sales tax an “across-the-board” approach that reaches everyone. It is, Butler said, “probably one of the most fair taxes … not just singling out landowners.”

She mentioned the recent economic announcements of Enviva, a wood-pellet plant that aims to build and operate near Hamlet, and the purchase of the former Thera-Firm building by Affordable Hosiery.

The complex, Butler said, would bring “quality of life and give kids something to do.”

That would, she figured,  make Richmond County that much more attractive to other businesses looking to relocate and take advantage of the area’s low cost of living.

RDC member Katie Rohleder, of Discovery Place KIDS, said it’s important to note the complex is more than sports. It also would include such amenities as a dog park.

Neal Cadieu said the complex would attract “not only young people, the players, but the adults who have to bring them here. I think it’s a fantastic advantage for the county.”

RDC President Susan Kelly, of the North Carolina Extension Office in Rockingham, weighed in.

“I’ve been thinking about Enviva,” Kelly said, “and whether those people (who work there) would choose to live here and what we could do about quality of life, which is a lot of why people choose to live where they live. That would be one of those pieces.”

Parsons noted an obvious benefit to the sales tax — regardless of rate, revenue comes from all over.

“It’s fairly distributed around the county. It’s not targeting landowners,” he said. “Plus, a great point to me is it’s not only people that live here who will be funding this.”

Parsons said plenty of beach-goers and truck drivers, and other passers-by, travel through Richmond County and stop for fuel, food and other services.

In short, he and other members of his group feel that “we certainly need all we can here. It’s a great way to add some visitors on the weekends. “This is going to benefit the children of Richmond County for years and years to come.”

 

 

Filed in: Business, Latest Headlines, News, Outdoors, Sports

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  • Wayne

    I’m currently undecided on the issue. I’d like see in writing that the tax will be repealed as soon as the objective is reached. Once government has a new revenue stream it is next to impossible to get it turned off.

  • Daryl

    Why isn’t this project a county project; especially the athletic aspect. A county wide athletic program would make for greater possibilities for a greater number of locals as well as be all that it is projected to be. Anyway; it’s about time something of this magnitude would come to our communities.

  • Time4Change

    So my understanding is that this is a county wide tax but the proceeds are going to pay for a ball park complex for the City of Rockingham. Should the County not “own” the park? And if the park will cost $14 million then it will probably take over 20 years to pay this off. So is the City of Rockingham going to pay back any revenues earned from this facility for all these new events? We could probably put this $700,000 per year towards education or as a direct incentive to an industry and get a better payoff. This project will not increase jobs. Just how many folks will be hired permanently to build a ballfield? And the City will only probably add one new position or a couple of part time folks. More questions must be asked and answers demanded. What are the 7 phases? They are advertising it as all inclusive but I would be willing to be the ball fields are first and the non-team things built last…if ever. Much too vague at this point. I feel someone is hiding something.

  • Joey Bennett

    I would also like to see a clear answer to the question proposed by “Wayne” above (is there a sunset date specifically mentioned in the materials presented on the ballot) and a timeframe on implementation of the tax. If approved in November does is go into effect Jan 1?

  • Eric

    The City of Rockingham is the entity borrowing the money and responsible for repayment. This is why the proposed facility will fall under city management. I may be speaking out of context here, but I don’t know why the city would use revenue collected from events for anything other than covering the direct costs associated with ongoing management of the parks. After this is built, the costs don’t stop. There will be overhead expenses for maintenance, insurance, etc. forth coming.

    In the United States, state and local funding contribute to 93% of all education expenditures. The majority of these funds come from state sales and income tax (both corporate and private). But on a local level, these funds usually come from property tax. To have an increase in funds made available for education, you either need to increase property tax rates or increase your tax base. No one ever thinks an increase in property tax is a good idea, so we need to increase or tax base. Industry looks at locations and base decisions to expand or relocate on many factors, one being quality of life for employees. This project, we all agree, will do just that. This is how you increase your tax base.

    Most counties in North Carolina already have a 2.25% local sales tax rate. Some have a local rate as much as 2.75%. Richmond County has a 2% local rate.

  • Sassy

    Let’s hope that property taxes will not be increased due to this proposed facility. Richmond County property tax rate is currently .8100 per 100.

  • Time4Change

    Eric,

    So I guess you are implying that the voters could pass the tax and then none of it would have to be used for the parks since the City is borrowing the money and responsible for paying it back? Does any type of agreement exist between the City and County? Because based on what I have read, it sounds like allthe citizens of Richmond County will be paying for it, not just the citizens of Rockingham. That means that the folks in Hamlet and Ellerbe will be paying for it and not even getting to use it if they play sports in their respective towns. Do you not agree that the “best” quality of life for ALL of Richmond County would be to consolidate all the rec. departments under the County so these funds could then be used for the benefit of the local citizens that actually are paying them? And I would argue that quality of life is down the list a little from educated workforce and ranking of local schools. This is like building a house and constructing the roof before the foundation. Both are needed and very important, but one will not be useful for long if the other is not there first.

  • Aubrey

    The recreation complex will improve quality of life for anyone in the county who enjoys being active outdoors not just those who have children playing recreation sports. In addition to the baseball/softball and soccer fields, the plans call for an “18-hole disk golf course, a tennis facility, a soccer complex comprised of five playing fields and an activity center, complete with a miniature train, a splash park, a carousel, a playground and a dog park, among other amenities.” The City of Rockingham already serves citizens in Hamlet and Ellerbe in the recreation program. Neither Hamlet, Ellerbe, nor the county currently have a recreation program that can compare to Rockingham’s. If the county were truly interested in consolidating the recreation departments, they would have already undertaken such a task. Richmond County isn’t interested in doing that. Why would they be when Rockingham has already done such an amazing job at doing it? There isn’t a fight between the cities nor is there a fight between Rockingham and the county about who should run the facility or where the facility should be built so I don’t understand why anyone would argue against the facility being built in Rockingham and run by Rockingham. No one else in the county wants to do it or they would have been the ones to approach the Cole Foundation and the County Commissioners.
    Business look for many different things when they are trying to decide where to locate. Yes, an educated workforce is important and so are our local schools. But guess what? Recreational activities are also very important. Maybe you don’t understand that an educated workforce doesn’t actually exist in places that don’t have a high quality of life. There are plenty of people who grow up in Richmond County, get a wonderful education, and MOVE AWAY to places where the quality of life is better. You can’t have an educated workforce if you can’t keep them here. That is one of the reasons quality of life (which includes recreation) is so important. It’s also difficult to recruit educated workers to come to your company if it is located in a place that doesn’t have recreation opportunities. Don’t believe me? Check out this article: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/81406
    I am so tired of hearing that there isn’t anything to do here. But as soon as the City of Rockingham presents a plan to construct “something to do here”, people come out of the woodwork to blast the idea. Let’s face it, residents of Richmond County are spending lots of money in other areas of the state whether it be at travel ball tournaments, movies, restaurants, or shopping centers. Those towns and counties are profiting off the sales tax that we pay. Let’s vote for something that will finally get people from around the state to start spending money here.
    This isn’t about which town the facility will be in or who will be in charge. It’s about making Richmond County a better place to live and work. Stop complaining and make a difference. If you think we need better schools, get out and do something about it. Volunteer for the Growing Readers program or call your local school and see what the needs really are. If you want change, make it happen. It looks to me like the City of Rockingham and Richmond County understand that it’s time for change and they are doing everything they can to make it happen.

  • http://yahoo rick

    Where are the jobs and growth this project will bring? Rockingham already has parks that are in dire need of repair, for instance the tennis courts behind Browder park. The condition of the fields and parking area at Bynum field? Let’s take care of what we have already before we take on another project-what condition will this complex be in 30 years? The tax-will it be repealed after the project is payed for?-most likely not. Remember the state and federal income tax and the property taxes (home and auto). Everyone should consider this before agreeing on “just a small increase”. Again please anyone explain the jobs and growth and the quality of those jobs and growth that it will bring to Richmond county.

  • Geoffrey

    I am not voting for this tax. it is not bringing more jobs to Richmond County. My children are grown. I am on a fixed income. Why should I have to help foot the bill for a recreation complex? It all sounds good, and the plan looks appealing. I recall many years ago that the old Lowe’s building off Hwy 220 was to be redeveloped and become Rockingham Junction..What ever happened to that plan? And during the cold winter months..January and February..how will the recreation area be used? I have lived here all my life. I want to see more jobs come to Richmond County…but that doesn’t seem to happening not in my lifetime.

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