Voters to weigh in on sales tax hike initiative

Commissioners: ‘World-class facility’ would increase revenue, improve quality of life

By Kevin Spradlin

ROCKINGHAM — The long-discussed Rockingham Recreation Complex could move a step closer towards reality if Richmond County voters approve a quarter-cent sales tax hike on the November ballot.

Image courtesy City of Rockingham

Image courtesy City of Rockingham

The Board of Richmond County Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution to request Connie Kelly and the county Board of Elections to place the initiative on the general election ballot. The initiative seeks to increase the county sales tax to 7 percent, or 7 cents for every $1 spent, up from 6.75 percent.

It’ll take a simple majority, 50.1 percent or better of those who vote, to make the proposed tax increase a reality. This comes less than five weeks after the commissioners adopted their Fiscal Year 2015 budget which included, in County Manager Rick Sago’s words, “an unsustainable approach” of borrowing from the county’s fund balance, or rainy day fund.

Sago said Monday before the commissioners’ vote that the board is not obligated to earmark proceeds of any tax increase to voters but they often have chosen to do so.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Commissioner Ben Moss, who read from a prepared statement. “I”m all for it. This quarter-cent sales tax increase could give us a revenue to make things happen.”

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.

Sago, Moss and the other commissioners tied the recreation complex project to economic development, as it would bring in an estimated $11 million — based on figures from other, similar facilities — and improve the quality of life.

Image courtesy City of Rockingham

Image courtesy City of Rockingham

“It’s something that can complete a full circle,” Moss said. “If we could host these tournaments, naturally, when they come here we have the potential to increase our fuel sales, food sales (and) booking of local motel rooms.”

Moss called a sales tax increase “the only fair tax” as it is spread over the its users.

“We can’t put the burden on the property owners anymore,” he said. “They’re paying enough.”

Board Chairman Kenneth Robinette echoed some of Moss’ sentiments.

“This will bring in a tremendous amount of outsiders,” Robinette said of a “world-class facility.”

“Economic development is not just manufacturing anymore,” he said.

Once the story was broke on The Pee Dee Post’s Facebook page as Monday’s public meeting was in progress, however, some county residents seemed to oppose the idea. Enough is enough, they said.

“No jobs, but let’s have a tax vote,” said Chuck Treadaway.

Said Bill Thompson: “Just what this county needs. More taxes! Haven’t had a raise in over 10 years and every tax hike is a pay cut!”

“I don’t like this, they should be cutting tax(es),” said Howard Richardson.

It might not matter. It’s a fact that many Richmond County residents are avid sports fans — the ongoing youth baseball and youth softball tournaments in Eden, High Point and Rockingham are three examples, plus more than 200 women in a recreational softball league in Ellerbe. And if the players themselves are too young to vote, their parents can always register.

Still, the commissioners noted that revenue from the sales tax increase, if approved by voters, would be earmarked solely for the recreation complex.

“We’re willing to help any municipality or anybody in the community” with an economic development project, Moss said.


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  • Time4Change

    Looks like Rockingham has the Commissioners in their pocket now. First the DPK boondoggle that is struggling to stay afloat, then a waste of grant dollars on a restaurant even though there are two struggling ones downtown, and now a sales tax increase to pay for Rhams dream park. Looks like this would have been a better use of the money than the prior two projects were, but now they want everyone in the county to pay for their stuff. Maybe the county should take over recreation if county tax dollars are going to support it.

  • Rick Deese

    Go spend a dollar. You will be charged 7 cent. This will earmark that .0025 or 1/4 cent to the sport complex. By voting for this sales tax increase will not cost you more just allocating the money you are already been charged.

  • Jane Moss

    I am not one for higher taxes but I am very much for anything that brings people in to our community. We have got to have things to sell ourselves. The more working people that we entice to our community the more money and even more ideas. There is no sense for this community to stagnate. I am sick of seeing Moore county grow while we do nothing. I think this is a great idea. Also I would love to see the downtown area grow. People have go to realise that the people that want to bring industry here want something else to do besides work. So as far as this tax increase goes-I say “Build it and they will come.”

  • Dean Lawrence

    Lets look at a few things here….First the COUNTY is footing the bill for “City of Rockingham” sports complex. Second…”they estimate 11 million in revenue…? a year? 2 years? five years? .Ok where does that money go.?…The City or the County? Can they please show How they arrived at that figure? We have all heard this ‘spin’ before…the “millions of Economic Impact Of Nascar” …Based On what? …a press media package from Nascar relating to all nascar tracks? So the tax payers ‘foot the bill’ the County or City gets Million of dollars and local business benefit…a few, and the added sales tax that only a percentage comes back to the county can be calculated how? Its all speculation without real figures toack it up. Oh …They Don’t have a figure of just what it will cost to build….Wouldn’t THAT be of vital importance? I asked the Manager back when, at the Rt. 1 Food Lion (closest to the Speedway) to calculate the added sales for a two week period before and during the last real CUP- NASCAR race at the Speedway….when we added it all up ,it came to about $700. back to the county in their sales tax percentage. Lets see some better estimates on this and really …whats it going to cost to build? If it generates that kind of money…maybe it will pay ‘itself’ off and the Tax could then be reduced. Run it like a business…Profit and loss…not like we see most Governments that just Tax & Spend…just my two cents.We hope it brings in “a Tremendous Amount of Outsiders” …that remains to be seen.

  • Time4Change

    The more I think about it, the more concerned I am about the process. This is a fairly big proposal. While you say it doesn’t really cost you since it is only 1/4 of a cent, we are talking about (supposedly) $650k per year. From the report it alludes it will all go to the complex, although it was made clear it didn’t have to. And those funds primarily benefit Rockingham. If it is a county wide tax, then maybe it should be a County owned and controlled complex. Consolidate all the sports and then play games in Hamlet, Ellerbe, and Rockingham, but have all the ballfields under the County. Kindo of like school ball, you would have home and away games. You could build divisions and you would have access to more practice facilities. What about other spending needs the County has, such as it’s own infrastructure, sewer and or water projects, education, etc. I guess I am concerned that this was basically worked out behind the scenes. Not enough public discussion. Sounds fishy. I agree with Mr. Lawrence, lay out the facts behind the revenue estimates, cause I am fairly certain that some of the other things we have been told about projects in the County did not turn out to meet the estimates. Race Track, Discover Place Kids, Courthouse.

    • Cliff

      I think the consolidation of the fields to one complex is one of many attractive points of this whole project. If a parent has multiple children they are not going to want to drive around town all day to try to watch them play. For example they can watch their son play a baseball game and just move to the next field to see there daughter play her softball game.

  • Ben Moss

    The Rockingham complex is just one example of what the revenue would be spent on. We are more than willing to help any other municipalities if they have a good idea geared toward economic development.

  • Time4Change

    Mr. Moss,
    So you are saying that a ballfield complex in Hamlet at the corner of Hwy 74 Bypass and Hwy 177 would be eligible for funding with these tax revenues? Very much the same concept, and much more accessible with no major traffic issues through existing neighborhoods, or possibly providing matching funds for a movie theater. Just what are some other examples of what the money would be spent on because the article seemed to only focus on that complex. Was there additional discussion at the meeting or were the additional deals cut prior to the meeting?

  • Time4$’s

    The population of Sumter Co is 107,456, more than double Richmond County. The referendum that was passed was a temporary sales tax that would be implemented until the funds were raised or 7 years whichever came first. Not a permanent sales tax. I understand if our taxes need to be increased to fund a critical need, but this is not one of them. Why not do a bond referendum, If the commissioners think this park can make $11,000,00 per year or $91,666 per month they shouldn’t have any problem paying it back without raising my taxes. I probably won”t even have time for the sports complex after I visit discovery place, go eat at the Richmond County Deli, and canoe down Hitchcock creek. I was suprised to see such a large sports store open in Rockingham, but it is starting to make sense now.

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