Legislators, commissioners talk priorities, goals

 

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

ROCKINGHAM — Whether the discussion focused on teacher recruitment and retention, sales tax revenue distribution, incentives to new and existing business, funding the purchase of body and dashboard cameras for local law enforcement officers or creating Richmond County’s first state park, each topic centered around one thing: Money.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Sen. Tom McInnis speaks of NC Teach, a plan to put teaching assistants in classrooms on a full-time basis - as teachers.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Sen. Tom McInnis speaks of NC Teach, a plan to put teaching assistants in classrooms on a full-time basis – as teachers.

All three members of Richmond County’s legislative delegation to Raleigh, including Rep. Ken Goodman, Rep. Garland Pierce and Sen. Tom McInnis, took part in a 70-minute informal sit-down with all seven Richmond County commissioners on Monday morning inside the administrative offices on South Hancock Street.

Sales tax distribution

The Charlotte Observer reports of state lawmakers’ proposal to change how sales tax revenue is distributed across the state. Currently, sales tax revenue is distributed based on point of sale — in other words, where the transaction takes place.

“Mecklenburg County and its municipalities, including Charlotte, could lose $100 million a year under a legislative proposal to change how sales tax money is distributed, according to city budget projections,” according to the Observer.

From the Observer: “Local sales tax revenues today are mostly distributed based on the “point of sale,” a system that benefits cities and tourism areas such as Charlotte, which have shopping malls and other destination retail centers.

The proposal from Raleigh would distribute all local sales tax revenues based on population. That would benefit rural, poor counties, where residents often drive long distances to shop in cities.”

Commissioner Thad Ussery was first, during the commissioner’s April public meeting, to indicate support for the change.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Rep. Ken Goodman says body and dashboard video cameras are good ideas but law enforcement agencies but opposes "unfunded mandates" from the state to local governments.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Rep. Ken Goodman says body and dashboard video cameras are good ideas but law enforcement agencies but opposes “unfunded mandates” from the state to local governments.

Commissioner Donnie Bryant seemed supportive of it, too, but looked at it with a measure of skepticism regarding the support from cities like Charlotte and Raleigh.

“They’re the ones who are gonna lose on this sales tax” redistribution, Bryant said. “You know the people in representing Mecklenburg County are gonna vote no.”
McInnis wasn’t so quick to write off the city’s support. He said there are some legislators from urban centers who understand the plight of places like Richmond County, which McInnis called a “super Tier I county.”
Pierce suggested one way to combat larger cities’ sales tax hit would be to add a sales tax for services such as haircuts. Other states have implemented such taxes successfully. Pierce wasn’t confident it would pass in North Carolina.
“That’s going to be hard, to push on our small business owners,” Pierce said.
Goodman suggested a compromise might be to make it partially point of sale and partially per capita.
“I don’t see any way it’s a (loss) for Richmond County,” Goodman said. “We need to work hard for it.”
Goodman acknowledged it’d be, at best, difficult, to have certain small business owners begin to pay sales tax.
Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Rep. Garland Pierce says one way to combat urban areas' hit on a proposed sales tax revenue redistribution would be to add sales taxes for a variety of services, such as haircuts and landscaping.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Rep. Garland Pierce says one way to combat urban areas’ hit on a proposed sales tax revenue redistribution would be to add sales taxes for a variety of services, such as haircuts and landscaping.

“It’s hard to get somebody doing yard work or hairdressing to pay income tax, much less pay sales tax,” Goodman said. “I don’t see how you administer charging taxes on services to some lady that’s got a two-chair beauty salon. You aren’t supposed to do this but people do … a lot of people take money and put it in their pocket.”

Goodman also figured attorneys would “get up in arms about it” and that group has “a good bit of clout” in Raleigh.
“I don’t see it passing the General Assembly,” Goodman said.
.
Economic development incentives
Commissioner Kenneth Robinette questioned why metro areas are eligible for such large financial  incentives — tax deals passed along to potential new businesses — when the rural areas need them the most.
“Why give incentives to Mecklenburg, Wake counties when (businesses are)
The state’s JDIG program — Job Development Investment Grants — offer rebates and tax incentives to companies that meet a certain threshold, such as creating a minimum of 175 jobs.
Goodman defended JDIG but acknowledged the need for a level playing field, or at least a more balanced one, for rural counties.
“We don’t need to do away with JDIG,” Goodman said. “It’s a great program, but there needs to be a balanced set of incentives that works for everybody.”
Martie Butler, Richmond County’s economic development specialist, asked of legislators for a program that offers incentives for smaller projects — ones that places like Richmond County is more likely to attract.
Butler suggested the range, instead of a minimum of 175 jobs, be 10 to 50 jobs and an investment of between $15 and $50 million.
Butler nodded approval of going after the big companies but suggested also a realities approach of smaller companies.
“There’s a lot of small fish,” Butler said.
Teaching assistants could get help
Lawmakers in 2001 eliminated the NC Teaching Fellows program in 2011, but McInnis hopes Senate Bill 594 can be a way to recruit and retain aspiring teachers who already have ties to their respective North Carolina communities.
Teach for NC, if passed, would allow a two-year pilot program in Scotland, Anson and Richmond counties to allow up to 30 teacher assistants with at least five years experience to get a free education if they agree to become a teacher for grades kindergarten through fifth grade.
The plan also relaxes Praxis exam scores, McInnis said, 10 to 15 percent and eliminates the requirement for practice teaching.
“They’ve got roots,” McInnis said of the people who already are in classrooms helping teachers every day. “They’re gonna live here, stay here” and convert to jobs paying $35,000 instead of $18,000.
“It’s a form of teaching fellows,” McInnis said. “For some reason, teaching fellows became a bad word. I don’t know what it was.”
McInnis said eligible teaching assistants in the three-county area could complete the program through UNC-Pembroke’s satellite campus without having to travel to Pembroke.
Prior to the start of the 2014-15 school year, McInnis said Richmond County Schools hired 43 new teachers from outside North Carolina. Most of those teachers, educators know, will flee North Carolina and head home to the north and midwest after three or fewer years in local classrooms.
Police cameras
 Commissioner Ben Moss questioned legislators about House Bill 395, which aims to help local governments acquire dashboard and body video cameras for law enforcement officers. Moss noted metro areas received federal assistance that is not so readily available to county agencies.
The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office has 60 deputies, he said, and supplying all the necessary equipment will cost $209,000. The Sheriff’s Office already secured a $14,000 grant but that’s still $195,000 to go.
“I think cameras are a great idea,” Moss said.
But then there’s the problem of paying for them.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Commissioner Ben Moss, right, asks about the cap on HB 395.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Commissioner Ben Moss, right, asks about the cap on HB 395.

“That would be a big hit to us,” Moss said.
HB 395 caps a single grant at $100,000 — for every $5,000 invested, the grant matches up to $1,000.
Goodman agreed both types of cameras are “a really positive thing to do” but that ‘if the state wants to pass the law, they need to come up with the money. I’m opposed to any unfunded mandates. The state just can’t push that off on counties.”
Goodman said so far he has not seen a solid plan for maintenance, monitoring and storing the data. He also said there are questions throughout law enforcement about who has access to the video.
Legislation, he said, could have “unintended consequences” and burdens placed on local law enforcement agencies.
Pierce suggested that the odds of HB 395 passing are “pretty slim.”
State park in Richmond?
County Commissioners, in particular Donnie Bryant, were paying attention in January when The Pee Dee Post first reported of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s goal to add more than 500 acres to the Sandhills Game Lands. The state-owned protected area encompasses
Bryant said the game lands designation prevents opportunity.
“Why are we not doing a state park,” Bryant asked legislators.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

McInnis said he’s already asked of the WRC for the revenue and expense sheets of the Sandhills Wildlife Management Area.
When he’s asked related questions, the answer is the same: “We spend more than we take in,” McInnis said he’s told. “I want to see.”
Bryant suggested a tourism opportunity awaits, “plus the state could make some money” off local and tourist hunters, fishermen and horseback riders.

 

Filed in: Featured News, Latest Headlines, News, Outdoors

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  • David Arner

    Revenue from haircuts and lawn services in this area is inconsequential and of no benefit. To increase tax revenue we have to bring in manufacturing that has a good size employee base and goods sales, including capital assets that will bring in a larger tax income than trying to put the burden of taxes on the typical small business model in this area. We have to take in taxes, but to what point is the tax money used for truly necessary services and how much is for cosmetics. These companies must also be able to make a good profit to be sustainable.

    But, to get to that point, taxes and excessive regulations will have to be cut to make it attractive for companies to look at this area as a business partner instead of being looked at as a tax revenue base only. The regulatory side is a worse job killer than taxation as there appears to be no common sense in the amount of money that is required to try to solve every perceived problem and hazard.

    Increase employment and more income into the county will put people on the working payroll instead of government subsidized money. Higher taxation and higher government spending will only result in less business startup and closure of the smaller businesses. Evenutally, the income vs outcome economic line will be crossed to the point where more taxation causes less business in the county.

    Can anyone figure out the end result what the final outcome will be!

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