Commissioner: Policy analyst remarks on sales tax issue ‘without merit and based on inadequate information’

 Robinette fires back at conservative think tank on sales tax referendum, sports complex

Previous coverage:
* Oct. 9: Robinette’s rebuttal
* Oct. 6: Parsons addresses questions around sales tax referendum
* Sept. 25: Carolina Journal report
* Sept. 19 – Chamber endorses sales tax referendum
* Sept. 16 – Local, state agencies aiding pro-sales tax group
* Sept. 15 – Campaign signs support sales tax hike
* July 7 – Voters to weigh in on sales tax referendum

By Kevin Spradlin

Richmond County Commissioner Kenneth Robinette released a letter Thursday to The Pee Dee Post that countered a claim made by a policy analyst with a conservative foundation. The claim called funding the construction of a sports complex “bad public policy.”

Click to enlarge image

Click to enlarge image

Carolina Journal associate editor Dan Way published the article, which was republished with permission on, on Sept. 25 in which he used as a source Sarah Curry, director of fiscal policy studies at the John Locke Foundation. The John Locke Foundation is the funding agency behind the Carolina Journal.

The article addressed efforts by the city of Rockingham and Richmond County governments to have voters approve a quarter-cent sales tax referendum that will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot. If approved, the quarter-cent sales tax increase could raise between $600,000 and $700,000 each year. Some of that money is expected to be used towards the construction of a multi-purpose sports complex situated on 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.

County governments have an obligation to taxpayers to supply necessary government functions to their citizens, including schools, roads, jails, courts, police and fire, and social service programs, Curry told the Carolina Journal.

“An expansion of a parks and recreation department through a new multipurpose park does not seem to be a basic function of local government,” Curry said.

Commissioner Kenneth Robinette

Commissioner Kenneth Robinette

Robinette told Curry, in the letter dated Oct. 6, that it’s possible she doesn’t understand a place like Richmond County.

“What you may not be aware of is the impact that a multi-use recreational complex could have on Richmond County,” Robinette wrote. “Richmond County is a rural Tier 1 County with low growth and a tax base that has not grown in recent years. The Board of Commissioners of Richmond County has conducted the business of county government with limited resources and without a property tax increase for the last seven years. Implementing a one-quarter percent sales tax offers an opportunity for added revenue that is collected not only from local residents, but also from those who eat, shop, buy gasoline and stay overnight in Richmond County.”

Robinette noted the county has recently completed “major capital projects for schools and Richmond Community College” by way of a $25 million bond referendum for education. In addition, Robinette said the state Department of Transportation “has invested millions of dollars in highway improvement projects in Richmond County during the last 15 years, and the city of Rockingham and Richmond County have expended millions of dollars on expansion of water and wastewater infrastructure, development of industrial parks, shell buildings and other financial incentives to attract industry to our area.”

Robinette then compared Richmond County, population 46,639, to the city of Raleigh (431,746) and Wake County (974,289).

“I realize that metropolitan areas are not faced with the challenge of budget restraints created by low growth and limited resources to fund quality of life projects once the mandated programs of local government have been budgeted,” Robientte wrote. “Unfortunately, rural, low wealth counties like Richmond County do not have the luxury of abundant recreational, entertainment, and cultural resources that our urban counties enjoy, but an additional one-quarter percent sales tax could certainly provide revenue that would help Richmond County to move the needle in a positive direction to ensure future growth and development.”

Filed in: Latest Headlines, Outdoors, Sports

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